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Brain study thinks ahead for new lab space

The next challenge for the Brain Health Initiative at Lakewood Ranch is to sustain the momentum.

File. Kirk Boylston says a new brain innovation lab in CORE will open the doors to new medical researchers.
File. Kirk Boylston says a new brain innovation lab in CORE will open the doors to new medical researchers.
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The Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration project in east Manatee County recently got word of a major score: A brain health study, run by nationally known scientists and medical professionals, announced plans to open its lab facility within the CORE campus.

'Discovering the basis of brain health may be the most important medical challenge of our time.’ Stephanie Peabody, Brain Health Initiative at Lakewood Ranch

The study, the Brain Health Initiative at Lakewood Ranch, will open the Brain Health Innovation Lab. The announcement of the project comes shortly after the organization surpassed $1.4 million in fundraising — a key milestone, Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Peabody says. The lab, Brain Health officials say in a statement, will be a space "where global innovators, entrepreneurs and investors can come together to validate brain health solutions and evaluate innovations for commercialization purposes."

While good for the project, it’s also a win for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, developer of Lakewood Ranch and CORE. “It was exactly what we were looking for,” says Kirk Boylston, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, an SMR subsidiary. “We needed the educational research piece. We have solved that at this point. There are a lot of interesting pieces that now will be happening in CORE. Other educational institutions already are involved with the brain study."

CORE is designed as a world-class research environment for collaboration and innovation. The plan is to build amenities, parks and other features meant to bring together companies to brainstorm. Employees will also be connected with a series of trails, pathways and boardwalks that offer a respite with park areas and courtyards.

The size of the Brain Health building, which will be new construction, and the parcel needed for it, is being explored. So too is a precise location, but Boylston says it likely will be near Optimal Outcomes, off Silver Falls Run behind the Earth Fare supermarket. 

Earth Fare, which is part of CORE, is the anchor tenant in The Green market complex that opened in 2017. The Green at Lakewood Ranch is a 38-acre, mixed-use development with a focus on the health and fitness industries. It will include a mix of restaurants, retail and office space, and a 304-unit apartment complex. Along with Earth Fare, LA Fitness is the other anchor tenant of the 38-acre, 525,000-square-foot development. Of the 38 acres, 11 acres are multifamily use with the other 27 being commercial, including 150,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space.

Optical Outcomes and Mercedes Scientific became the first two tenants in CORE since the project was announced in 2015. Now the Brain Health Initiative at Lakewood Ranch will join the mix, and Boylston hopes more researchers will follow.

And because the study is moving forward and data is beginning to come in, Boylston says the Brain Health Initiative should be able to apply for more grants to supplement funding. SMR — which isn’t donating the land or building for the lab — gave $600,000 to the study to kick off its fundraising campaign in March.

The Brain Health fundraising campaign plans to announce other donations and donors in the coming weeks. In a statement, Garrett Shinn, president of Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, says the fundraising efforts “plant a life science flag on the west coast of Florida and create opportunities for our region to lead the state and nation in increasing brain health outcomes.” 

Meanwhile, the Brain Health Initiative, formed by The Academy for Brain Health and Performance in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, moves to a planning phase. Up next, officials say in the release, is to "develop a brain health community impact model that can be measured and replicated.”

During the planning phase, brain study researchers will conduct focus groups and use those findings to create strategies for the pilot study. The brain health baseline survey will be developed to be implemented in the next phase, which will begin in spring 2020. Planning will develop plans to facilitate clinical trials.

“Discovering the basis of brain health may be the most important medical challenge of our time,” says Peabody, a neuropsychologist, in the release. “We’ve been overwhelmed with support from Lakewood Ranch and the greater Gulf Coast community, as well as throughout the state of Florida and nationally. We are thrilled to begin the next stage in this landmark, multigenerational initiative.”




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