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USF Receives Funds, Makes Plans For Heart Health Institute

The University of South Florida (USF) was recently approved to receive state and county funding to move forward with its USF Heart Health Institute project.

On April 17th, Florida Governor Rick Scott approved $6.9 million in state funding to support the initial design of the institute while, just one day later, the Hillsborough County Commission approved $2 million to help support equipment and space for the institute.

USF Health has also pledged approximately $25 million in resources for genomics-based personalized medicine, including funds for research equipment, facilities and the recruitment of two top physicians: Dr. Leslie Miller, USF chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Dr. Stephen Liggett, a nationally prominent researcher who will become director of the Personalized Medicine Institute.

The institute will need an additional $42 million in state funds in order to break ground on the 100,000-square-foot facility where 60 employees are expected to work. USF will partner with Tampa's Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute on this project.

“When you look at where you can really make a difference, you go to where the prevalence of cardiovascular disease is most likely the highest in the United States: You start with the oldest population in the country and add in the high instance or prevalence of hypertension and obesity here in Florida,” Miller says. “The Heart Institute is a mandate to do some really cutting edge research and create new knowledge in this field, developing translational research and new therapies as soon as we can.”

According to Miller, USF President Judy Genshaft and USF Health CEO and College of Medicine Dean Stephen Klasko were so convinced that the Heart Institute was the right initiative to move forward with that it became the number one priority for university funding from the Florida Legislature for the next three years.

“They're committed to changing the health care of this community and you can't do it anymore importantly than to focus on cardiovascular disease,” Miller says. “We feel it's really imperative to do something for the residents of this state, the rest of the country and, ultimately, the world. Our therapies are going to have such broad applications.”

Currently, cardiovascular disease accounts for 40 percent of all hospitalizations and deaths in Florida. According to Miller, one in four people in the United States have cardiovascular disease; that number is expected to jump to one in three by 2020.

“This is the greatest health risk and impediment to long-term survival. This is the disease of this community and this state and we really need to do more than we have,” Miller says. “We don't see this as competitive -- it's about new discovery and new science. We hope all health care groups in the region and in Florida will be supportive of this very important new initiative.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Dr. Leslie Miller, USF Department of Cardiovascular Sciences
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