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After 17 years, Breedlove helped change technology incubator's culture

Sunday, November 8, 2015   (0 Comments)
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After 17 years, Breedlove helped change technology incubator's culture

Patti Breedlove, director of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, plans to retire this December.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 6, 2015 at 6:44 p.m.


ALACHUA — The University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator was three years old when Patti Breedlove was hired on as program coordinator in September 1998.

“We had a lot of little baby companies being run by UF professors in their spare time and that was not a formula for success,” she said.

Breedlove said that changed when Win Phillips, former VP of research, hired David Day to run technology licensing and bring in more people with biotech business experience to build deals around a growing research base.

Day said Breedlove was the doer who drove the process of shifting from a science culture to a business culture.

She'll be retiring in December after 17 years at the helm, a time in which the Sid Martin was named the best technology incubator in the world, with companies that have created 2,000 jobs and raised $1.3 billion in funding. She saw the surrounding Progress Park grow from five to 23 buildings, many filled with companies that got their start in the program.

At first, Breedlove said she was involved in more day-to-day operations at the incubator, a 40,000-square-foot facility with rentable lab space and $1 million worth of shared scientific equipment and a community of like-minded people to help a company get started.

At any given time, about a dozen companies are admitted to the program, 52 in all over its 20-year history. Each has had some ties to UF, with a little over half licensing UF research inventions, or a working relationship with UF researchers.

With the hiring of operations manager Merrie Shaw 10 years ago, Breedlove said she has been involved in more external work promoting the local biotech cluster, working with chambers of commerce, the BioFlorida trade group, entrepreneurs, workforce, working on the need for lab space and promoting the program to the many visitors who come to see the work being done here.

“Patti is grand central station for the biotech industry in Florida,” Day said. “If somebody is looking for a job, looking for space, looking for a collaborative partner, no matter what they're looking for not only in this area but around the state, people check in with Patti and she sends them off to whoever can work with them best.”

BioFlorida awarded her its lifetime achievement award at its recent annual conference in Orlando.

“We're going to miss her dearly, not just us here but people all over the state are going to miss her dearly,” Day said.

“I've never met a more giving person. I've never met a person that was less about self and more about helping others.”

Breedlove grew up in San Diego and was the first in her family to go to college. Her grandfather was a coal miner and her father was born in a mining camp and grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky.

After earning a master's in health science, she started a 25-year career with Planned Parenthood, first in education and then administrator of community health centers, which included opening a center in Ogden, Utah.

She followed her husband at the time to Gainesville in 1998 when he was recruited to run a biotech company. She said she never thought she would be involved in biotech, although she was intrigued by it, when she met the people running the incubator and was hired by William J. Dinehart.

Breedlove said what's important about the incubator is not the building or equipment or companies, but the culture they have helped nurture in Progress Park.

“I think there's a culture out here in the park that's open and respectful and welcoming and collaborative that people feel when they get involved with us out here, and I think the incubator can take some credit for that,” she said. “We play well with others.”

In retirement, she said she plans to continue serving on the boards of Dance Alive and the Cade Museum, and has promised the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to work on a volunteer project.

“I expect to be one of those people who says, 'I don't' know how I ever had time to work,'” she said.

About BioFlorida

BioFlorida represents nearly 6,000 establishments and research organizations in the biopharmaceutical, medical technology and bioagriculture sectors that collectively employ nearly 83,000 Floridians.


Members of the BioFlorida network include emerging and established life science companies, universities, research institutions, hospitals, medical centers, incubators, economic development agencies, investors and service providers.


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