Molecular studies institute opens in St. Lucie County

The Treasure Coast officially became Florida's research coast Saturday, as more than 200 people celebrated the grand opening of the Torrey Pines Institute of Molecular Studies and all it has to offer for Florida's and St. Lucie County's future.

"Today we celebrate our Super Bowl on the research coast," said state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, when he took the stage at the grand opening.

Dozens of Treasure Coast dignitaries and officials, professionals and scientists packed the first floor of the 100,000-square-foot center, excited about how the Treasure Coast is making the map with biotech companies and changing the future of the state's education system.

"This will create more jobs, and biotech research will be the backbone of Florida's economy," Pruitt said.

Torrey Pines, the painkiller, cancer and inflammation research institute, marks the beginning of a new economy for St. Lucie County. It's the beginning of a more sustainable economy that won't be based on construction but on science and high-end paying jobs, he said.

"Florida's future is bright," Pruitt said. "We know this is going to help build a sustainable economy in the future, so embrace it."

For St. Lucie County, Torrey Pines' new $40 million center is the first step for a group of biotechnology companies at the Florida Center for Innovation at Tradition.

The cluster of biotech companies and partnerships with Florida Atlantic University and the local school system will allow Treasure Coast's youth to stay in the area instead of traveling elsewhere, said Port St. Lucie Mayor Pat Christensen.

Research technician Tina Gibbons, 26, who makes compounds for drug research at Torrey Pines, is an example of that.

The Port St. Lucie resident, who attended Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce and graduated with her bachelor's degree in biomedical science from the University of South Florida in 2006, has been working at Torrey Pines for about a year now.

"This motivates young people to stay in the area because there wasn't a lot here before," she said.

"This way it keeps them here. This gives a place for the young people."

Torrey Pines President Richard Houghten and his wife, Pam, announced that for the next 10 years they will be giving $2,500 of their own money to the Ken Pruitt Jr. Scholarship Foundation through the St. Lucie County education fund.

Keywords: BIO SCIENCE RESEARCH FACILITY OPENING Torrey Pines Institute

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