May 25, 2005 – Despite protests and threats of lawsuits from environmental and other groups, Palm Beach County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to start building a multi-million dollar biotech headquarters for the Scripps Research Institute in a wetlands area along the edge of the Everglades.
The Palm Beach Business Development Board (BDB) courted the biotech firm to establish its 364,000-square-foot biotech research facility on Mecca Farms, a property currently scattered with wetlands. The county and state together have pledged hundreds of millions to buy the land, build the research facility, pay its operating costs for seven years and develop a supporting biotech cluster around the institute.
In January, activists protested at BDB offices; several entered and threw rotten fruit and sawdust. They claimed that the facility's development would violate state land use laws, pose environmental hazards, and ruin the shores of the Loxahatchee River.
Some protesters said they did not want Scripps expanding anywhere, let alone in the Florida Everglades. They criticized the institute for taking federal grant money to patent what have been traditional medicinal cures and collecting data for pharmaceutical firms that profit from it.