UCF Officially Takes Over Sanford Burnham Building, Will Transform It Into Cancer Research Facility

Sanford Burnham’s greatest legacy in Orlando may be the beautifully designed building that’s perched in Lake Nona’s medical city, a stone’s throw from the UCF College of Medicine.

UCF officially took over the 175,000-square-foot facility on December 2 to turn it into a cancer research and treatment facility, closing the book on the research institute’s Florida campus.

In the vast empty spaces of the airy, sunlit building, all Dean Deborah German sees is opportunity — even in a seemingly boring conference room.

“Imagine this as a cancer center. Imagine that we have a cancer symposium coming from all over the community or all over the world,” German said in a recent tour. Let’s imagine that we have a support group for people with a particular type of cancer and we want to hold meetings. Maybe we want them to come for breakfast and we want them to get to know each other. For education, if we have post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students, residents, imagine them all in here talking about the latest in basic research and how that moves all the way to the bedside,” German said.

There will soon be a hospital next door — UCF’s teaching hospital that just broke ground — and this building’s auditorium will make a perfect space for grand rounds.

“I’m grateful to SBP people who built this building because they had a lot of resources and they could build a space like this. … Part of our job is that this is vibrant and this is used all the time,” German said.

She walked through the first-floor cafe area that’s surrounded by windows and greenery. Yet another opportunity for holding conferences. Or maybe students can come over from across the street and study there.

“I can imagine benches out there,” she said pointing at the spaces between the trees. And then, as she walked past the small dining tables, she asked the facilities’ director who was walking along with her to remove the bright artificial flowers that sat in small vases.

“I like flowers. I think these are just … Throw them away in place of your choosing,” she said.

On that November day, only a few people working with Sanford Burnham were left in the building. The one faculty member who was still there had pasted a piece of paper on his office nameplate with his new title at the institution he was moving to.

Most of the equipment was gone.

Some had already followed the researchers who left to destinations like Florida Hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the University of Florida. Equipment that was purchased with local money has remained in the facility, including furniture and some lab equipment.

“Some hi-tech equipment was transferred to UCF and additional general research equipment will remain in the building to be used by UCF,” wrote the institute’s spokeswoman Deborah Robison in an email.

One of the building’s crown jewels, the sophisticated drug discovery robotic platform that made up the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, was transferred — not sold, Sanford Burnham officials said — to Discovery Cure Institute, a newly formed nonprofit research institute in Alachua. The company “is focused on finding new treatments for cancer and infectious diseases using its ultra-high-throughput screening and medicinal chemistry capabilities,” according to the forms filed with the state.

Discovery Cure also recruited members of the Sanford Burnham’s drug discovery team, said Robison in the email.

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute came to Florida a decade ago with more than $150 million in state incentives and matching funds from Orlando, Orange County and Tavistock. In return, it agreed to create more than 300 jobs in 10 years.

Then, about three years ago, the nonprofit research institute, headquartered in La Jolla, Calif., began planning its departure from Orlando.

It decided to leave because it found the operations to be financially unsustainable, its officials said. The incentive money was running out and the federal funding wasn’t keeping up with the institute’s projections a decade ago, they said.

By then the institute had reached about 87 percent of jobs it had promised and it couldn’t break its contract and leave.

So it first tried to hand off operations to the University of Florida. But that deal fell through. Then it tried to strike a deal with Florida Hospital; that deal also fell through earlier this year.

Eventually, UCF’s proposal won the approval of the stakeholders.

Before the agreements were final, Sanford Burnham owned the building. Orange County currently owns the land.

The institute gave the building to the county for free. In turn, the county will sell the land and building for $50 million to UCF.

UCF, through one of its Direct Support Organizations, will pay the mortgage, without interest, to the county quarterly once it starts receiving rent payments from the building’s tenants, for 30 years.

Orange County will then distribute the money among the funding parties, 43 percent of which will go to the county, 35 percent to the City of Orlando and the rest to Tavistock.

German is planning to fill the building with clinicians and scientists in the next two years. Its name is now official: UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center.

“When I came to UCF, everyone said UCF: it stands for U Can’t Finish and Under Construction Forever. And I didn’t really like either one of those, so I decided that for me personally, UCF is going to stand for U Can’t Fail,” she said.

The university wants to turn the facility into a cancer research and treatment facility with several private partners, including HCA’s Sarah Cannon cancer institute and Provision Healthcare, which specializes in proton therapy.

“And there are other partners but they still don’t want to be named yet,” said German, as she walked the hallways of the building.

Dr. Annette Khaled, a professor and the head of the cancer division at UCF Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, may be among the first occupants of the building,

“It’s a beautiful design of lab space. It really allows us not just to be in our individual world, but the opposite,” said Khaled, standing on the third floor of the building, where faculty offices sit across from their glass-shielded labs. “Students will be here. Labs will be here. And on the floors below, you’ll have patients and doctors and you have space to meet them. It’s super significant.”

But before all that, German is planning to bring the building back life. She’s hosting a Christmas party there.

“Wouldn’t you? Since the building is completely empty, I don’t want the building to feel lonely like it’s abandoned. [The building] comes with holiday decorations, so let’s start right away,” she said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel

City, County Favor UCF To Take Over Sanford Burnham’s Lake Nona Assets

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacob and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer both favor proceeding with negotiations between the University of Central Florida to take over Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at Lake Nona, according to recent correspondence between the two government officials.
After a contentious Jan. 23 county commission meeting, Florida Hospital sent a Jan. 30 letter to each local funding partner officially withdrawing its proposal for Sandford Burnham from consideration.

“That currently leaves us with the UCF proposal, which again is the one that was preferred by the county,” wrote Jacobs in a Feb. 2 letter to Dyer and the Tavistock Group.

She goes on to say that UCF is proposing to lease the medical facility on a long-term basis and provide rent payments estimated at $2 million to the funding parties. UCF said it would work with the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville,Tenn., Hospital Corp. of America (NYSE: HCA), Provision HealthCare and Altercare as partners.
Jacobs said the purpose of her letter is to set a date with stakeholders to determine if everyone favors moving forward with the UCF proposal.

Dyer responded to the letter on Feb. 6: “Given the need to move forward in a timely manner and that no other proposals have been brought forward after the public presentations, the city of Orlando supports negotiating with UCF to lease the site currently occupied by Sanford Burnham Prebys. This includes developing the appropriate draft agreements and bringing them to the city of Orlando and Tavistock for review and consideration.”

However, Dyer indicated one concern is UCF’s timeline for when it will occupy the building.

“Since the [Board of County Commissioners] supported the proposal with a less definitive timeline [compared to Florida Hospital], we would expect that should negotiations not be completed before [Sanford Burnham] vacates the facility, Orange County would be responsible for any ongoing maintenance and operations of the building created by a gap in tenancy.”

He concluded his letter stating that the UCF medical school has been a catalyst for growth and is confident about working with it.

“We now have the opportunity to meet with Sanford Burnham Prebys, finalize our proposal and present a complete plan to Orange County officials. We are eager to create an academic cancer research and treatment center that will serve our community – patients, researchers, providers and taxpayers,” Dr. Deborah German, dean of the UCF College of Medicine, told Orlando Business Journal.

Source: OBJ

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