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We’ve heard of co-working spaces for creatives and startup entrepreneurs, but now the sciences are hopping on the trend. At the forefront is Nova Southeastern University as it welcomes its $100 million Center for Collaborative Research.
Formaldehyde smells like pickle juice and vodka. It’s common in plywood, glue and funeral homes during the embalming process. It’s an adhesive, or preservative, or sterilizer. And according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it’s a toxic chemical found in nearly one in five cosmetic products from shampoo, to lipstick, to nail polish.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter now who wants to buy nail polish and makeup. … And I look [up the ingredients] and say, ‘Oh my god, you’re not putting this on. It has formaldehyde in it—you’re not rubbing this into your eyes,’” says Jean Latimer, who holds a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology.
Latimer tucks her red hair behind her crisp white lab coat. Her office walls are bare, but a few packed boxes are stacked at the corner of her desk—she just made the move a few days earlier to her office on the fourth floor of the Center for Collaborative Research, Nova Southeastern University’s new $100 million building.
“It’s a very beautiful building, and it’s nice to show pictures to people and they look at it and go, ‘That looks like a resort!’” Latimer says.
At the Center for Collaborative Research, Latimer will head NSU’s AutoNation Institute for Breast and Solid Tumor Cancer Research. One of her focuses includes chemical testing on common consumer products—like shampoo, or lipstick, or nail polish—in order to see if they’re linked to cancer.
“Lawn chemicals are another big thing,” Latimer says. “… So, when people retire and they live on a golf course, they are exposing themselves to massive amounts of toxic chemicals.”
Latimer is only one (very important) component of an even larger equation. Mix pharmacology, law, oncology, business, oceanography and more together, and you get the Center for Collaborative Research, which is meant to take researchers from various practices and place them all in one massive think tank. But like any good science experiment, it isn’t about what happens when these elements are within close proximity to one another; it’s about what happens when they collide.
The building is designed to incorporate common areas where researchers and practitioners from various disciplines will run into one another, and in theory, make new discoveries that wouldn’t be made in isolation. “There’s an opportunity for us to start to interact and develop some new idea. All of the eating areas, the coffee areas, the conference rooms—these are all common. So we bump into each other there. There’s actually only one bathroom on this floor, so we can also bump into each other there—at least gender specifically,” Latimer laughs.
H. Thomas Temple, M.D., senior vice president of translational research and economic development, will head this experiment. “The opportunity to marry the research and clinical enterprise, and [NSU President Dr. George L. Hanbury’s] vision to develop this perfect union between science and medicine and business and law… that’s really what did it for me,” he says.
It’s unlikely the university could have found a better orchestrator. Temple’s resume includes an undergraduate from Harvard University, medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, nearly three decades of practice as an orthopaedic surgeon, and more than 20 years of research, which resulted in the development of two commercial products—BioCartilage, which uses cartilage from donated cadavers to treat the loss of cartilage, and Viograft, used in bone regeneration.
Temple says that at this stage in his career, he’s done all he can surgically, even though he continues to see patients at Aventura Hospital & Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Miami. Now, his main focus will be on the new CCR, which plays host to NSU’s Cell Therapy Institute, directed by Richard Jove, Ph.D.; Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine, directed by Nancy Klimas, M.D.; Rumbaugh-Goodwin Institute for Cancer Research, directed by Appu Rathinavelu, Ph.D.; Institute for Natural and Ocean Sciences Research, directed by Richard Dodge; and of course, Latimer will lead the AutoNation Center. The building also loans itself to independent researchers looking to rent a space and gain access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment. And while the beautifully landscaped property and the soft, yellow paint that decorates the 218,000-square-foot building’s exterior are quite the draw, Temple says the aesthetics aren’t what’s most important.
“It’s not what you see, but it’s what’s here—the people. The people are coming into [the CCR] and having the opportunity to cross-pollinate and translate their ideas into bigger ideas,” Temple says.
And not only does Temple say the building will impact researchers and students alike, but it will also affect the community. With plans to build a $300 million hospital and hotel across from the CCR, NSU could very well become a research and treatment destination, creating jobs for more than just researchers and practicing medical professionals.
“Nova, I believe, will be an epicenter,” he says. “It’s right in the middle of Broward County. It’s right in the middle of South Florida. It’s 15 minutes from an international airport. … You can’t find a better location.”
On Oct. 26 at the Lauderdale Yacht Club, AutoNation will host its Pink Tie Bash hosted by Miami Dolphins player Koa Misi benefiting the research center. Those interested in attending can email Tracy.Roloff@att.net.