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L-R: State Representative Chuck Clemons, Alachua Assistant City Manager Kamal Lathem and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle discuss future opportunities for the Alachua biotech community.

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ALACHUA – Alachua’s thriving biotech community is on a mission to increase its presence on the national and global stage. Biotech leaders and community partners welcomed Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Secretary Dane Eagle on Wednesday, June 2 at the Santa Fe College Perry Center for Emerging Technology. Eagle was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to lead the State’s economic development agency in 2020.

Joining in a roundtable discussion of strategies to nurture the local biotech environment was Santa Fe College President Paul Broadie, State Representative and Santa Fe College VP for Office of Advancement Chuck Clemons, Alachua Chamber of Commerce President Mitch Glaeser and Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Eric Godet.

Over 30 individuals representing the local biotech community participated in the strategy session including a number of CEOs, UF Innovate/Sid Martin Bio’s Karl Lapan, Elliottt Welker, and Merrie Shaw as well as Alachua City Manager Adam Boukari and Alachua Assistant City Manager Kamal Latham. The meeting was also available virtually and several biotech leaders including President and CEO of BioFlorida Nancy Bryan and AGTC CEO Sue Washer joined online.

Discussion centered on the factors that make a biotech community grow and thrive. Participants pointed out that important attributes include an available workforce, proximity to higher learning, startup friendly environments, access to venture capital and a quality lifestyle.

There was general agreement by participants that the State of Florida could encourage growth in the biotech industry by supporting measures that boost angel, venture capital, and other funding for biotech and biomed companies as well as offering incentives tailored to the biotech industry in order to be competitive with other states such as Massachusetts, California and North Carolina. Another area identified that the State could assist with is funding for building and site development to support construction of new facilities, or reuse or expand existing facilities.

Locally, the City of Alachua is launching the Alachua Biotech Partnership, a public-private partnership to help grow existing companies and expand the area’s biotech ecosystem. It was suggested that DEO become a member of the partnership. Clemons suggested starting a biotech caucus to further discussion and strengthen the biotech sector.

Eagle offered several suggestions regarding possible funding opportunities through the Department of Economic Opportunity and advised that some measures mentioned would require legislative action. It is expected that Eagle will return to the area in the near future to tour local facilities.

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