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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Oct. 17, 200612:00 PM EST

Proton therapy brings a little bit of Belgium to Jax

by: Miranda G. McLeod

by Miranda G. McLeod

Staff Writer

The company that built and developed radiotherapy solutions and dosimety equipment to treat cancer with accuracy is locating its U.S. proton therapy headquarters to Jacksonville.

IBA Particle Therapy, based in Belgium, is currently looking for a space to house 20-40 workers, with room for expansion, near the University of Florida’s Proton Therapy Institute, according to company CEO Pierre Mottet.

The establishment of the company’s headquarters could bring $1 billion to the First Coast.

So why Jacksonville?

The city’s hospitality and cooperation, said Mottet.

Numerous organizations came together to build the 98,000 square-foot proton therapy institute that opened this summer and that struck a chord with Mottet.

“Never in the history of medicine has such a complex and advanced therapy system been put in operation so swiftly,” he said. “This new record is important for proton therapy as it will contribute to make the technology shift from research to clinical reality. The passion, rigor and care that the whole UFPTI staff has shown to make this happen is admirable. And this is just the beginning of a long-term partnership for the advancement of proton therapy and better patient care in the Southeast.”

Mottet said it was the city’s hospitality that swayed his company to move to Jacksonville. IBA had scouted other areas including Boston and Indiana.

“There’s such an opportunity for developing this unique technology here,” said Mottet, who made the announcement at the institute’s dedication ceremony last week. “We may be farther from Belgium, but this is so much more efficient. I don’t think my people would go back to Belgium anyway.”

Jacksonville is the home of the Southeast’s only proton therapy institute, and UF’s marks the fifth in the nation.

Mayor John Peyton spoke at the dedication and said it was a great day for Jacksonville.

”We do our best work when we partner,” said Peyton, who thanked leaders of the community who dedicated monetary support to the institute, including former Mayor John Delaney. “This is just the beginning. This is a place where you can see our future growth.”

Mottet liked what Peyton had to say.

“The mayor’s words were pleasing to hear,” said Mottet. “It’s very important to have that public and private partnership. There is strong cooperation with a supportive environment. The community and city work as a team for this.”

City Council member Kevin Hyde was at the dedication ceremony, along with other city and state elected officials. He said the announcement was a pleasant surprise and like icing on the cake.

“It just goes to show that you can build an engine and see what else it attracts,” said Hyde.

The company will manufacture new treatment models and there will be software development also, said Mottet.

The UFPTI is affiliated with the UF Shands Cancer Center and the UF College of Medicine. The cancer treatment facility houses both conventional radiation and proton therapy, and when it is at capacity will deliver proton therapy to 150-200 patients per day.

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