Collaboration, integration essential for growth of life sciences in South Florida

Life Sciences South Florida Lifees Awards panel, held at eMerge Americas Conference in June.

What will distinguish South Florida from other innovation clusters across the nation? Collaboration.

“Collaboration and how community gets built will help set our area apart,” said Natalia Martinez, executive director of the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami. “A thriving ecosystem, like the one in Kendall Square Boston, has created a tangible innovation community built around institutions. In Miami, we are figuring out how we collaborate.”

Natalia Martinez

Martinez was one of the five innovators and industry leaders who participated in the second annual Life Sciences South Florida Lifees Awards panel, held at eMerge Americas Conference in June. Life Sciences South Florida, whose members include leaders of the top educational, economic development and research institutions in the region, seeks to establish an industry cluster in South Florida focused on life sciences, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and information technology. Launched in 2010, LSSF is overseen by FIU’s Office of Engagement and is chaired by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg.

Moderated by Daniel Cane, CEO and co-founder of Modernizing Medicine, the panel brought together Matthew Kim, founder and CEO of Vigilant Biosciences, Inc; Natasha Anderson, CEO of Larkin Behavioral Health Services, Larkin Community Hospital; Jennifer McCafferty Fernandez, director of Miami Children’s Research Institute & Office of Sponsored Programs; and Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, general manager of Cambridge Innovation Center Miami.

The panelists highlighted the challenges companies in life sciences are facing when establishing new companies in South Florida. Life sciences are the sciences concerned with the study of living organisms, including biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, physiology and biochemistry.

“There are some challenges in getting companies to understand life sciences and getting them to invest in these concepts,” said Kim. “We have lot of good companies who have left because they have been able to scale and reach the next level of funding,”

Lifees award winner

In addition, each of the companies highlighted the importance of partnering and a culture within organizations that foster innovation.

“We are never going to be able to do it all alone,” said McCafferty Fernandez. “We are hyper-collaborative in our mantra on the research side and we partner with discovery to create an impact for that one patient.”

Afterward the panelists joined more than 100 members of the Life Science ecosystem to celebrate the Lifees at an award ceremony honoring life sciences companies who have shown visionary leadership through their partnerships with students, faculty, researchers and scientists.

Sancilio & CompanyEngineering Resources Group and Advanced Environmental Laboratories were recognized.