Cleveland Clinic Florida has opened the Florida Research and Innovation Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Established in November 2019, the new center will advance innovative translational research focused on immuno-oncology and infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
The Florida Research and Innovation Center will be closely integrated with Cleveland Clinic’s new Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens Research, which was established in April 2020 and has brought together some of the world’s top research experts in virology, immunology, genomics and population health to broaden understanding of emerging pathogens—ranging from the Zika virus to SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19)—and expedite critically needed treatments and vaccines. The researchers will collaborate with drug developers from Lerner Research Institute’s Center for Therapeutics Discovery to more rapidly move discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic for patient care.
The 107,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility features modern laboratory space, biosafety level 3 facilities for work with infectious agents and office space for support services on eight acres of land. Cleveland Clinic has recruited a team of renowned scientists to the Florida Research and Innovation Center to launch scientific programs that address both local and international health challenges, including cancer and emerging pathogens. The facility will additionally provide an exceptional training environment for researchers. Philanthropic funding of this research program will support the new center’s efforts to explore new treatments and technology.
The Florida Research and Innovation Center will complement and expand research underway at the Florida health system’s five hospitals and Lerner Research Institute, which is home to 190 laboratories on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus in Cleveland, Ohio. The scientific teams will closely collaborate, tapping into resources at both facilities to develop new treatments for patients around the globe.
“We are pleased to be moving forward with our vision to create a world-class research program in Florida,” said Joseph Iannotti, MD, PhD, interim CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida and chief academic and innovation officer. “We are confident that the collaboration between our scientists and partners will ultimately result in the development of therapies that address some of the most challenging medical conditions we face.”
“Cleveland Clinic’s robust research infrastructure will be further expanded with the opening of the Florida Research and Innovation Center,” said Thomas Hamilton, PhD, vice chair of Lerner Research Institute. “Through team-based discovery, forward-thinking science, translational research, clinical trials and innovation, our vision is to bring together a world-class team of experts within a leading-edge research facility.”
The Florida Research and Innovation Center is headed by Scientific Director Michaela Gack, PhD, who joined Cleveland Clinic Florida in July 2020. Previously, she was a professor in the Department of Microbiology and chair of the Committee on Microbiology at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Gack, a renowned virologist, has an extensive background in microbiology and infectious disease. Her research focuses on the immune system’s response to viruses, an essential step in developing safe and effective antivirals and vaccines. She has also done extensive research on immune evasion by Dengue, Influenza and Zika viruses.
Dr. Gack received the Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award of the American Society for Microbiology in 2014, and she has been named twice on Germany’s list of “Top 40 under 40” scientists. In 2017, she was awarded the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to join Cleveland Clinic Florida and build a collaborative program with some of the top scientists in these fields,” Dr. Gack said. “Collectively, we have spent many years studying the interplay between viruses and human disease. We look forward to applying the knowledge we have gained to develop new strategies for vaccines and treatments.”