UF in talks about major role at Sanford Burnham

- A research organization that has been key to the growth of a thriving medical community in Orlando is in talks with the University of Florida about giving the school a major role at the organization's campus.

If the talks are successful, it will represent a fundamental change for Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at Lake Nona. The La Jolla, California-based medical research enterprise has received more than $350 million in economic incentives since 2006 when it announced it would build an East Coast facility in Orlando's Lake Nona community. The economic incentives package was championed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who argued it would help diversify Florida's tourism-reliant economy.

The proposal would allow the University of Florida to build on the research infrastructure started at Sanford Burnham, Sanford Burnham spokeswoman Deborah Robison said in a statement released late Tuesday.

"Both organizations believe that this is an opportunity to create a scientifically robust operation that capitalizes on SBP at Lake Nona's world-class infrastructure and UF's vision for growth," the statement said.

Robison didn't return a phone call Wednesday seeking further details. A University of Florida spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on the talks.

Any agreement between Sanford Burnham and the University of Florida would require the support of state, local and university leaders.

Sanford Burnham has been a cornerstone of Orlando's developing Medical City. In the span of a decade, what was once a cow pasture has become home to the Sanford Burnham facility, a VA hospital, the University of Central Florida's medical school and a University of Florida research center.

The research at Sanford Burnham's Orlando campus has focused on the origins of disease and the study of gene sequences.

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