Build It and They Will Come

As the No. 1 destination for medical meetings, Orlando now has another resource to draw physicians—a new ­biocluster that includes the Burnham Research Institute, a medical school, and a new hospital all developed in last four years
Sep 01, 2011

Orlando has always been a major draw for doctors. Named the No. 1 destination for medical meetings by the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association for 13 years, Orlando hosts half the medical meetings in the country—roughly a medical meeting once every five days).

And now there is an even bigger draw: the country's newest biocluster. Five minutes from Orlando's airport, on 650 acres, is a $2 billion medical campus that including a medical school, research center, laboratories, and a hospital all developed over the last four years—and it continues to grow.

For meeting planners, Orlando's new 'Medical City' is a treasure trove of contacts and resources for educational meetings sessions, as well as supplying a wealth of physicians, scientists, and researchers in a variety of different therapeutic areas to be key opinion leaders (KOLs) or speakers at large sessions.

The creation of the medical campus was sparked by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research when it agreed to build in Florida in exchange for a $310 million incentive package. Orlando's chances of being the spot for development improved when the University of Central Florida also agreed to build its medical school at Orlando's Lake Nona (photographed above). A curious fact and one that adds a futuristic touch to Orlando's new Medical City is the fact that the medical school is bookless. Instead, students are given Apple iPads with access to online databases.

As soon as the medical school was approved in 2006, the Burnham Institute (now called the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute after a recent $50 million donation by the billionaire T. Denny Sanford) chose Lake Nona for its new home. The building, which opened last year, contains one of the country's few robotic high-throughput screening centers—machines that can run a huge number of biological tests very quickly.

Orlando’s Medical Meeting Resources
The two institutions then created a "clustering effect," attracting a variety of medical institutions to buy up neighboring plots to be in a position to foster collaboration. (see sidebar)

The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando rented lab space at one of the medical school buildings. A Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital is being built, along with a VA medical simulation-training center. The University of Florida will open a research laboratory, and four incubator buildings for startup biotech companies are in planning stages.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this development, the Orlando medical meeting business continues to thrive in the face of the recession and an increasingly stringent regulatory environment.

To find out how they do it, Pharm Exec talked with Tammi Runzler, senior vice president of Convention Sales and Services for Visit Orlando and Director of the Healthcare Advisory Board.

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