Public's Big Gamble on Max Planck Institute to be Put to the Test; Now Hiring
12/4/2012 8:20:51 AM
The rare microscope that neuroscientist David Fitzpatrick uses to peer inside living brains and watch nerve cells fire was developed within Germany’s Max Planck Society, and brought to Florida courtesy of state and Palm Beach County taxpayers. Nearly $700 million in public money have been poured into the gamble to bring both Scripps Florida and Max Planck to the area, a gamble made during the Jeb Bush administration in the belief that biotechnology would transform the area’s economy and give the world new cures for diseases. The value of that pricey biotech bet is on public display this week in Jupiter as Germany’s Max Planck Society marks the formal grand opening of its first and only U.S. branch, highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday. Surrounded by native plants and preferred parking for fuel-efficient cars, the glassy Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience along Donald Ross Road has been six years in the making. Inside, it holds exceptional tools, such as Fitzpatrick’s extraordinarily precise two-photon microscope, as well as eight other research group leaders focused on fundamental questions about how the brain works. Could expansion of human knowledge be seen as one measure of the return on taxpayers’ investment? Fitzpatrick believes that it should. Billions of dollars have been spent on studying Alzheimer’s disease and testing drug candidates, yet science still can’t say with certainty what’s causing the death of brain cells.