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Sanford Burnham Wants To Leave Medical City, But Researchers May Stay

UCF is moving into Sanford Burnham's Medical City location.

Details are emerging on Sanford-Burnham’s planned exit from Orlando.

Officials in Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office confirm the plan is for Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute to leave Medical City. But they plan to leave the facility and researchers behind, possibly under the University of Florida’s care. Sanford Burnham would be taking their name.

Heather Fagan, deputy chief of staff for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, said the plans discussed Monday are very preliminary and would need multiple approvals.

“It’s easy to look back and ask questions,” Fagan said. “But we’ve seen the benefit of Burnham in Medical City. The jobs it’s attracted, the other organizations it’s attracted. So the vision, they’ve fulfilled that. Our investment we believe has returned the benefits we promised to the community of jobs and new industry.”

A decade ago, Florida spent more than $300 million dollars to get Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute to come to Orlando. Orlando alone put in nearly $33 million, and Orange County put in about another $40 million.

Nearly 250 people work at Sanford Burnham, and the Orlando location mainly researches metabolic diseases, like diabetes.

“Despite the fact that the role of Burnham is changing, we will continue to have a thriving life sciences industry, continue to attract research entities and funding, and continue to drive the success of medical city and Lake Nona,” Fagan said.

Both the University of Florida and Sanford Burnham aren’t doing interviews about the plans. They did release a joint statement, though.

The University of Florida (UF) and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute at Lake Nona (SBP at Lake Nona) are discussing a proposal that they believe would allow the University to build upon and grow the research enterprise established by SBP at the Medical City in Lake Nona. In order to finalize an agreement we must have the support of Orange County, the City of Orlando, Lake Nona Land Company and the state of Florida, among others, as well as the requisite approvals for UF of their Board of Trustees and State Board of Governors. UF and SBP are working with them to answer questions and explain the many benefits of the proposal. 

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.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs released a statement as well.

“I was recently briefed by officials representing the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the University of Florida regarding the potential expansion of the University of Florida’s footprint in Lake Nona’s Medical City,” Jacobs wrote. “As I understand, this proposed new collaborative partnership would maximize the benefit to Medical City and the entire Central Florida region as we work to become a leader in bio-medical research and development.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sanford Burnham has an endowment.


WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, a statewide collaborative reporting on health care.

Health reporting on WMFE is supported in part by AdventHealth.

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Abe Aboraya

About Abe Aboraya

Health Reporter

Abe Aboraya started writing for newspapers in High School. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe ... Read Full Bio »

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