Fall 2020

Expanding research capability: University merges with Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies

The Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Photo courtesy of tpims.org

In 2007, a cross-country move occurred that would eventually impact Florida International University. At the time, however, neither the university nor the institute that expanded from California to Florida knew that their biomedical research endeavors would lead to a merger.

Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, located approximately 125 miles north of the MMC campus, originally was attracted to make the move from the west coast by the city of Port St. Lucie and the state of Florida. A private institute, it sought to continue its mission to conduct “research to advance the understanding of human disease and the improvement of human health.” 

About a decade later, FIU began to lease research space at the institute, which offered laboratory facilities that were vital to the university’s research growth. The partnership quickly proved mutually beneficial, and discussions began about a merger between the two. On March 1, 2020, the Florida Board of Governors approved the merger, now known as the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies at Florida International University.

“We are glad to officially merge with Torrey Pines,” said Provost Kenneth G. Furton. “This new facility will catalyze our translational science research and get us closer to our $300M annual research expenditure goal in FIU’s Next Horizon 2025 strategic plan.” 

As part of the merger, the university acquired the 108,165-square-foot state-of-the-art research facility that includes fully functional wet laboratories, a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance laboratory, vivarium, and auditorium. It is appraised at $16 million and would cost more than $30M to build today. The facility will enhance and accelerate FIU’s research and translational work in medicinal chemistry and chemical biology research, drug discovery and basic research efforts leading to the cure of diseases in areas such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

While there will be no courses taking place at the site, the new space will allow for graduate students and postdocs to get hands-on training in their respective fields as they work on scholarly activities and sponsored research. FIU will also hire 70 additional positions to support the establishment of a translational medicinal chemistry and chemical biology program at Torrey Pines at FIU. When fully staffed, Torrey Pines at FIU is expected to represent more than $20 million in annual sponsored research expenditures. 

“We expect to attract many additional top faculty to Florida,” said Furton. “I am excited for the additional opportunities that this merger will create for FIU and our state.” 

There’s already been an unintended positive consequence of the merger: The new location has led to collaborations between the university and its new neighbors. Right next door, at the former Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute building, The Cleveland Clinic has started to work with FIU in the development of translational research around drug discovery, infectious diseases and cancer. Additionally, FIU has also attracted an Australian vaccine company that will be relocating to the new research center, creating a translational medical research hub.