Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

December 30, 2019

Research highlights from Florida – fruitful in 2019

By Advancing the Science contributor
variety of citrus fruit piled on a rustic white table top, a few cut in half and leaves artfully arranged

Florida sunshine doesn’t just contribute to big, juicy oranges. In 2019, Florida was a hotbed of growth for Mayo Clinic Research, with 11.8% more funding for new capabilities such as ex vivo perfusion for lungs – leading to more available for transplant, and carbon ion therapy for cancer – currently not available to patients in the U.S.

At Mayo Clinic, Research and Education provide the basis for all we are able to do for patients today. Furthermore, they enable practice transformation as we seek to meet future patient needs. Read on for more highlights from research at Mayo Clinic's Jacksonville, Florida campus.


  • New Therapies
image of blue cloth/plastic draped table; clear tray on table contains lung(s) attached to various tubs and equipment, two gloved and gowned individuals manipulating and adjusting forceps and tubes.
Ex vivo lung perfusion

Lung transplant research studies are underway at Mayo Clinic in Florida, where a new Lung Bioengineering Center in the Discovery and  Innovation Building opened in 2019. The center is the result of a unique academic-industry collaboration between Mayo Clinic and United Therapeutics Corp. Researchers are studying ex vivo lung perfusion to resuscitate and support donor lungs that may otherwise be unavailable for transplant.

Innovative research is also underway at Mayo Clinic in Florida in the area of cancer vaccines. Keith Knutson, Ph.D., is conducting  studies to prevent and halt the recurrence of breast and ovarian cancers. This breast cancer research is focused on three subtypes of the disease—estrogen receptor (ER)-postive, HER2-positive, and triple negative. Dr. Knutson is studying two vaccines aimed at boosting the immune system and preventing the recurrence of ovarian cancer.

  • New Diagnostics

Mayo Clinic researchers are poised to test the utility of new technology –the breath biopsy. This diagnostic tool has the ability to test a patient’s exhaled air for certain health conditions. Analyzing breath molecules has evolved to a point where researchers can now get a “fingerprint” of these gas molecules in order to determine if they’re correlated with a variety of diseases, including cancer. Early studies are already underway.

Artificial intelligence research is helping to shape the future direction of medicine. Big data is a tool to help researchers analyze patterns of human disease in large numbers of patients and has the ability to predict risk factors and patient outcomes. Mayo Clinic experts utilize biostatistics to design, conduct and analyze research to advance medicine.

Investigators are involved in testing the ability of a promising new technology known as robotic bronchoscopy to diagnose lung cancer. This is a precise, minimally invasive procedure capable of reducing the risk of complications posed by a traditional biopsy. The hope is that robotic bronchoscopy also could be used to treat lung tumors in the same outpatient procedure as the diagnostic test. In another project, they’re assessing the potential for a new endoscopic technology to improve symptoms and quality of life for COPD patients suffering from chronic bronchitis.

  • New Technologies
artistic rendering of a carbon ion beam breaking apart DNA

A new integrated oncology facility that incorporates innovative technologies for treating patients is expected to be completed in late 2023 at Mayo Clinic in Florida. The facility will house North America’s first carbon ion therapy program for treating cancer. Carbon ion therapy is among the most advanced forms of cancer treatment available for select patients with very difficult cancers. The therapy belongs to a family of particle therapies that includes protons, helium, and other ions. It’s capable of destroying cancer cells that are resistant to traditional radiation therapy—precisely depositing the treatment while minimizing the dose to adjacent normal tissue. While not yet FDA approved, researchers at Mayo will undertake a robust scientific evaluation and analysis of the capability of this technology and identify which cancers would be most appropriate for treatment. In November, Mayo Clinic announced an agreement in principle with Hitachi, Ltd., to bring the technology stateside. About 30,000 patients in the U. S. could be candidates for carbon ion therapy. This new technology will coincide with other cancer treatment offerings in the integrated oncology facility, including proton beam therapy, a highly targeted therapy that uses pencil beam scanning to deliver precise radiotherapy with lower doses of radiation to healthy tissue. Proton beam therapy clinical trials, offered through Mayo’s comprehensive cancer center, will also be available to patients, giving them more access to cancer treatment options.

Mayo Clinic in Florida was chosen as a beta site for the NanoString GeoMX Digital Spatial Profiler technology. This novel technology changes how breast cancer tissue specimens are analyzed. It allows researchers to evaluate the samples in a spatial context and is capable of providing a more detailed understanding of the immune response than other multiplexing technologies. Breast tissue studies are planned. (Read announcement.)

  • Promoting Innovation
Discovery and Innovation Building

To bring new medical discoveries to more patients, the Life Sciences Incubator at Mayo Clinic in Florida opened this year, aimed at advancing findings from Mayo’s research labs and clinical practice for patient health and well-being. The collaborative biotech business hub, housed in the new Discovery and Innovation Building, also attracts life sciences startup companies from around the country. The incubator was awarded a $750,000 grant this year from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to provide education in entrepreneurship and build a regional support system for entrepreneurial activity.


A comprehensive approach to cancer

Mayo Clinic Cancer Center spans three Mayo campuses –Florida , Arizona and Minnesota – as one of the most comprehensive cancer centers in the country. At  Mayo Clinic in Florida, exciting cancer research  is underway involving genomics, 3D technology, immunology and novel vaccine therapy.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed Cancer Center Support Grant funding for the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, providing approximately $28.7 million in cancer research funding through 2024. The NCI also renewed Mayo Clinic Cancer Center’s designation as an NCI comprehensive cancer center. The distinction recognizes institutions for demonstrating scientific leadership, resources, and depth and breadth of research in basic, clinical and/or population science, as well as substantial transdisciplinary research. 


The new Frank and Marisa Martire Family Integrated Clinical Studies Unit (ICSU) opened at Mayo Clinic in Florida in late September. The 12 bed unit, housed on the second floor of the Dorothy J. and Harry T. Mangurian Building, is dedicated to clinical research in all medical specialties. Many of the ongoing studies involve early-phase, first-in-human trials, but all phases of clinical studies can be accommodated. A pharmacy is located on the same floor, with a team that works closely with the ICSU team to coordinate logistics and the preparation and delivery of novel therapies. A physician is always on hand. Additional space is available in the ICSU for the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine’s Biospecimens Accessioning and Processing laboratories (BAP Lab) satellite location. The strategic build-out of the lab helps support the increased demand for clinical trials and services needed to expand them and compliments its other locations on campus.


Mayo Clinic’s Florida research expenditures totaled $85.1 million in 2019 (October year-to-date), as illustrated in the Florida Research Funding graphic above. The 31.8% Mayo-based funding included philanthropy and diversified activities, and 68.2% external funding sources including the State of Florida, Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health). This demonstrates 11.8% growth over 2018 during the same time period (76.1 million in 2018, October  year-to-date).

Florida's report is a snapshot of some of the research-related activities and advancements across Mayo Clinic. More information and highlights can be found at the links below, and throughout the Mayo Clinic websites, and


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Tags: About, artificial intelligence, biopsy, breast cancer, cancer, cancer vaccine, carbon ion therapy, Center for Individualized Medicine, clinical trials, ex vivo lung perfusion, immunology, Keith Knutson, lung cancer, lung transplant, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic Life Science Incubator, medical innovation, minimally invasive surgery, National Cancer Institute, oncology, Progress Updates, radiation therapy, republished, research, robotic technology

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