University of South Florida

County joins state in funding USF Health Heart Institute

$8.9 million in funding, USF Health Heart Institute

TAMPA, FL (April 18, 2012) — The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners today approved $2 million to help support equipment and space for the USF Health Heart Institute,  joining the state in funding the project.   Gov. Rick Scott approved $6.9 million in state funding Tuesday to support the initial design of the new institute.

The combined $8.9 million in state and county funding will allow USF Health to move ahead as one of the nation’s leaders in cardiovascular care, with a special focus on genomics-based personalized medicine.

“This is a forward-looking action on the part of the governor and our Hillsborough County Commissioners, and we thank them for it,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “We’re also grateful for the support of Florida legislators and the leadership of Florida House Speaker Designate Will Weatherford.”

“We thank  Will Weatherford, our legislative leaders, the governor and Commissioner Mark Sharpe for recognizing the power of an entrepreneurial academic health center in growing the economy and the health of the state and Tampa Bay region,” said Dr. Stephen K. Klasko, CEO of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.  “We believe that the technology developed here will herald a new day and that USF Health will be able to partner with the best industry and academic partners throughout the world to develop these new personalized and genetic approaches to health.”

The Hilllsborough County agreement calls for $2 million over five years for the institute,  a key part of helping USF Health and the Tampa Bay community to create a health care innovation hub and expand the region’s growing reputation as a medical destination.

USF Health already has committed nearly $25 million in resources for genomics-based personalized medicine, including funding of research equipment and facilities, as well as the recruitment of two top physicians. They are Dr. Leslie Miller, chair of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Dr. Steve Liggett, a nationally prominent researcher who will become director of the Personalized Medicine Institute.

“Personalized medicine for heart and other diseases, which is based on an individual patient’s DNA, is the future of medicine and will allow us to tailor treatments,” said Dr. Liggett, who will join USF in June as vice dean for personalized medicine at the Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health associate vice president for personalized medicine. “We can put into place the current known genetic signatures, and discover those that are desperately needed, with the formation of this institute at USF Health. This places the State of Florida, and the Tampa Bay Area, as a leader, and not a follower, in the most advanced health care and research in the world.”

Cardiovascular disease accounts for 40 percent of all hospitalizations and deaths in Florida.  State costs for cardiovascular care are projected to increase to $17 billion a year by 2020. The USF Health Heart Institute can help with research that will help identify those at greatest risk for heart disease, allowing practitioners to treat them earlier; improve the knowledge of how an individual’s genetics can better guide drug treatments and dosage; and find new therapeutic treatments based on genetic discoveries.

“Cardiovascular disease is now the biggest health risk not only to the residents of Tampa Bay or the nation, but in the world. The State has made a major investment that recognizes the imperative to address this growing problem,” said USF Health Cardiovascular Sciences Chair Dr. Miller.  “The creation of a new Heart Institute at USF is a critical step toward saving lives by finding new diagnostic tools such as use of genomic markers of disease that will allow earlier detection and better prevention, as well as develop new and improved therapies such as stem cell and gene therapy to improve outcomes. USF Health is committed to solving health care problems today.”

The American College of Cardiology has selected the USF Health Heart Institute as a partner to conduct the first trial linking genomic screening with a clinical database of millions of patients with cardiovascular disease. The ACC also recently named the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS)  as its first-ever Center of Excellence in Education and Training.

USF Health will also partner in this new project with the Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute, which is located at Florida Hospital Tampa, a new part of the Adventist Health System.  USF Health and Pepin plan to collaborate on research and clinical trials.

“Gov. Scott’s approval of this funding is great news for the heart institute,” said Tom Pepin, founding philanthropist of the Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute. “Patients across Florida and beyond will benefit from better cardiovascular care because of the research and care improvements being made through our partnership.”

Starting the Institute shows how USF Health works to act as an entrepreneurial academic center, Dr. Klasko said.

“This is a great example of growing our own biomedical start-up,” Dr. Klasko said. “Instead of recruiting a center, we’re creating one. Most importantly, this is the future of health care, and we’ll have it right here in Tampa Bay.”

-USF Health-

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities.

Media contact:
Lisa Greene, (813) 974-4312 or

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