Cleveland Clinic opens research facility in Florida aimed at cancer, infectious diseases including COVID-19

The 107,000-square-foot Florida Research and Innovation Center officially opened July 1. (Cleveland Clinic)

Cleveland Clinic Florida opened a new research and innovation center focused on, among other things, research of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and the immune system response.

The 107,000-square-foot Florida Research and Innovation Center (FRIC) officially opened July 1 in a facility previously occupied by the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute. Cleveland Clinic took occupancy of the three-story building last fall.

The facility features laboratory space with biosafety and three facilities for work with infectious agents as well as office space for support services.

The center will be recruiting researchers and launching scientific programs to address both local and global health challenges, including cancer and infectious diseases, through 2020.

The center will be closely integrated with Cleveland Clinic's Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens Research, established in April to broaden understanding of emerging pathogens—ranging from the Zika virus to SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19)—and to expedite critically needed treatments and vaccines. Researchers will also collaborate with drug developers at Lerner Research Institute’s Center for Therapeutics Discovery, which has 190 laboratories on Cleveland Clinic’s main campus in Ohio.

Officials did not disclose how many researchers they are looking to recruit for FRIC nor how much is being spent to fund the center. They said it is being supported in part by philanthropic dollars.

The center will be led by Scientific Director Michaela Gack, Ph.D., who joined Cleveland Clinic Florida this month. She was previously a professor in the Department of Microbiology and chairwoman of the Committee on Microbiology at The University of Chicago and is a virologist whose research has focused on the immune system’s response to viruses, an essential step in developing safe and effective antivirals and vaccines.

“We are pleased to be moving forward with our vision to create a world-class research program in Florida,” said Joseph Iannotti, M.D., Ph.D., interim CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida and chief academic and innovation officer. “We are confident that the collaboration between our scientists and partners will ultimately result in the development of therapies that address some of the most challenging medical conditions we face."