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Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

$700 million in state funding will help Moffitt build massive cancer complex in Pasco County

An aerial rendering of a campus spread out on a stretch of land between roads.
Moffitt Cancer Center
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A artist's rendering shows the 775-acre plot of the proposed Moffitt Cancer Center project in Pasco County. The park will include facilities for cancer research and health, a hospital, and possible cancer and health oriented facilities from other enterprises.

The planned life sciences innovation district will serve as a hub for cancer research, education and patient care.

An ambitious plan to build a massive cancer treatment center and research park on 775 acres in Pasco County received a major boost from Florida legislators this week.

In the budget that they forwarded to the governor on Monday, lawmakers awarded a total of $706 million to Moffitt Cancer Center over the next 30 years to help the nonprofit build a life sciences innovation district on vacant land just east of the Suncoast Parkway and south of State Road 52.

The project will serve as a hub for cancer research, education and patient care, said Jamie Wilson, vice president of government relations for Moffitt.

“This piece of property has the opportunity to be probably the most impactful cancer-oriented region in the country,” Wilson said. “This is going to be a magnet. It’s going to be very attractive for other enterprises to come in here and to collaborate on finding better treatments and cures for cancer.”

In addition to providing groundbreaking health care to cancer patients, there's a great economic benefit for the entire region, he said.

“The more that we become a national and international leader in cancer, that means that more people will be attracted to Moffitt Cancer Center from a research perspective, from a physician patient care perspective, from a nursing perspective,” Wilson said.

The first phase of the project could provide up to 8,500 jobs, including construction jobs and full- and part-time employment in the facilities.

The park will include facilities for cancer research and health, a hospital, and possible cancer and health oriented facilities from other enterprises.

The space may also be a future home for classrooms, teaching kitchens, health clubs and a performing arts center.

The $706 million from the state includes $20 million a year in recurring funds through 2053 for Moffitt Pasco County Life Sciences Park and $106 million for the project’s initial infrastructure.

Wilson says that without the state’s help, the project would not be where it is now.

“Without this type of investment that the state is making in Moffitt, we would not be starting as quickly as we are and would not be as far ahead of the planning process,” he said.

The first phase of the project will start later this year and continue until 2025. Phase 2 will involve building a research facility and other buildings in the area.

State legislators this year also approved $10 million to fund Moffitt research and education. And they approved an additional $37.7 million in funding for a statewide initiative created in 2014 to improve the quality and competitiveness of cancer care in Florida. That brings the total amount funded for that initiative, named the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program, to $100 million. Moffitt expects to see about $13 million from that allotment.

Florida has the second highest number of cancer patients in the nation, according to the Florida Department of Health. Since 2014, cancer has been the second leading cause of death in the state.

Understanding why cancer happens and how to treat it correctly is vital to the future fight against the disease, Wilson said.

“And when you have top physicians who are treating patients, and they are taking the research, discovery and implementing that into patient care, it's that dynamic nature of where the science community is moving and where the physician and patient care community is going,” he said.

In addition to helping cancer patients, Wilson said that the complex will provide an economic benefit to the state and nearby community.

“The more that we become a national and international leader in cancer, that means that more people will be attracted to Moffitt Cancer Center from a research perspective, from a physician patient care perspective, from a nursing perspective,” he said.

Katrine Bruner is the WUSF Rush Family/Health News Florida intern for spring 2022.
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