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Local infusion to boost Moffitt

By BILL VARIAN
Published February 22, 2007


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TAMPA - With a $28-million vote Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners joined the race to bring bioscience companies to Florida.

Commissioners unanimously approved their largest subsidy ever that doesn't involve a sports team, agreeing to give H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute the money for a joint venture with giant drugmaker Merck & Co. Inc. to develop cancer treatments.

Today, the proposal goes to a joint legislative budget committee considering an additional $15-million in state incentives.

With the vote, Hillsborough commissioners follow their counterparts in Palm Beach, Orange and St. Lucie counties, who have in recent months signed multimillion-dollar subsidy deals with companies specializing in medical research. Hillsborough commissioners hope their project sparks investment in the Tampa Bay region while helping advance treatment options for cancer patients.

"This is why I became a county commissioner - the opportunity to participate in activities where you can really make a difference in the lives of individuals," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who helped lead the effort to land the Moffitt/Merck collaboration.

Moffitt intends to create a for-profit subsidiary called M2Gen that will study ways to tailor treatment of cancer patients based on the individual characteristics of their tumors, with the goal of developing new drugs. Merck, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical, said it will invest about $95-million in the project.

In return for the subsidies, Moffitt promises to create 165 jobs paying an average of $80,000, 108 of them in Hillsborough. The jobs would have to be maintained for at least 10 years.

Local and state government will spend about $263,000 on each of the jobs created through M2Gen.

Bill Varian can be reached at 813 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 22, 2007, 01:33:20]


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