The City of Orlando will decide Monday whether to allow Florida Hospital to transfer $2.5 million in state funds to build a life sciences research incubator next to Sanford Burnham, which has announced plans to leave the state due to a lack of research funding.

The Florida State Legislature provided $5 million in funding four years ago for Florida Hospital’s Central Sciences Incubator Consortium to build and operate two life sciences incubators at Florida Hospital Health Village and Lake Nona.

Neither has been built.

The city, as the state’s disbursing agent, signed the agreement Feb. 25, 2013 with the hospital. The deal expires June 30. The hospital has requested the money be used to build one incubator next to Sanford Burnham in Lake Nona. City commissioners will discuss an amendment to the original plan Monday.

The California-based Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute was given $350 million in taxpayer-funded incentives to expand its research to Lake Nona in 2008. They failed to deliver the promised 303 new jobs and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity asked for part of the money back last year. The institute said they couldn’t afford to stay in Florida because of financial losses suffered during the recession, declining federal research dollars and the loss of incentive funds.

DEO remains committed to holding Sanford Burnham accountable for all taxpayer monies received and will continue to investigate our options for any repayment,” said Erin Gillespie, DEO’s director of communications and external affairs.

There have been rumors that Florida Hospital wants to turn Sanford Burnham into a research center. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has been sparse on details, saying last month they don’t want a replay of last year’s debacle, when the University of Florida’s interest in taking over Sanford Burnham failed.

Gov. Rick Scott put the brakes on the UF plan after he questioned whether it was a good deal for taxpayers.

“The City remains committed to furthering the success of the Medical City, expanding on the ground-breaking research and medical discoveries happening there and continuing to create the jobs of the future,” said a statement from Dyer released Thursday by his press secretary.

Florida Hospital is also cagey about its plans.

“Unfortunately, because this is such a fluid situation we are not going to be able to provide an interview at this time, said an email from David Breen, Florida Hospital’s corporate communications manager.

Florida Hospital also could not comment on why it was unable to fulfill its obligation to establish a research center at the Florida Hospital Health Village.

The City of Orlando’s amendment to the agreement says nothing about taking over Sanford Burnham but states that the hospital will collaborate with the Tavistock Group, developers of Lake Nona, to build a research incubator in the Guidewell Innovation Center at Lake Nona Medical City. The University of Central Florida will operate the incubator and recruit companies that will bring high-wage jobs to the area, according to city documents.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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