USF Health, TGH tackle infectious, emerging diseases via new collaborative medical research effortsCOVID-19 vaccine trials first up

The long-standing relationship between Tampa General and USF Health is ramping up rapidly with the College of Medicine now situated in downtown Tampa, just a 5-minute water taxi ride away from the region's top hospital.

Among recent joint efforts announced: The opening of the Taneja Family Global Emerging Diseases Institute, a stand-alone facility that will provide "world-class care for patients battling COVID-19 and other infectious diseases,'' the first such facility in Florida.

"An entire team of physician leaders from TGH and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine will serve the Institute, from the inpatient clinical care to the outpatient clinics to teaching and research,'' according to a news release.

The institute will be led by Dr. John Sinnott, TGH’s chief epidemiologist and chair of Internal Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Dr. Kami Kim, director of Infectious Disease and International Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, will oversee the Institute’s future expanded laboratory space for infectious diseases research and education.

Also, the newly created TGH-USF Health Office of Clinical Research will allow Tampa General and USF Health researchers to combine resources more effectively in clinical trials to detect, treat, and prevent infectious disease, and will improve patient care through translational studies that address critical needs beyond the laboratory. 

The joint office builds on seven months of collaborative research between medical scientists at the two Tampa-based institutions to develop approximately 35 COVID-19 clinical trials, several of which are part of national studies. This includes the recent selection, announced Dec. 2, of Tampa General and USF Health as a joint site for a Phase 3 clinical trial testing the Novavax NVX-CoV2373 vaccine for COVID-19. Including the coronavirus trials, researchers at USF and TGH currently collaborate on approximately 350 research trials.

Dr. Clifton Gooch and Dr. Abraham Schwarzberg were named co-Vice Presidents of Clinical Trials and Translational Research for the joint office. Dr. Gooch chairs the Department of Neurology at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and is the Tampa General Hospital Endowed Chair in Neurology. Dr. Schwarzberg is Senior VP of Network Development and Chief of Oncology at Tampa General.

Rachel Karlnoski, Ph.D., Director of Clinical Research Operations for USF Health, was selected following a nationwide search to fill the role of Executive Director of Research for the joint office. She will remain in her directorial position at USF Health under Vice Dean Stephen Liggett and will report to Drs. Gooch and Schwarzberg for oversight on all clinical trials involving both USF Health and TGH.

“This new initiative will bring the cutting edge researchers and powerhouse research infrastructure of USF Health to the world-class hospital talent at TGH to create an academic medical center research enterprise which will rival the best hospitals in the country for hospital-based research.  As a very recent example of this potential, our collaborations have already brought some of the top COVID-19 treatment trials in the world to Tampa, and have positioned TGH and USF to be some of the first in the nation to administer the latest treatments for COVID to the Tampa Bay community," Dr. Gooch tells 83 Degrees.

"Going forward, this exciting new partnership will make the very latest in experimental therapies and procedures available to our patients, while further enhancing the reputation of both institutions as go-to destinations for world-class research and medical care,” he says.

A news release by TGH and USF states that administrative research changes through the new joint office will not affect USF Health's participation in clinical studies with Moffitt Cancer Center, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, or other community and academic partners. Nor will the changes affect TGH's partnership in clinical studies with Moffitt Cancer Center, TeamHealth, the Florida Orthopedic Institute, or other private practice physician partners.

"We already have established and invested in a strong foundation for clinical research," says Tampa General President and CEO John Couris. "Combining the efforts of TGH and USF Health is the next step to elevate the world-class research we do to push forward to the edge of scientific discovery."

Learn more at these links:
  1. Tampa General Hospital
  2. USF Health 
  3. USF Health News: USF Health and Tampa General Hospital selected to participate in the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine Phase 3 clinical trial
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Read more articles by Jessi Smith.

Jessi Smith (she/they) is a freelance writer who is passionate about sustainability, community building, and the power of the arts and transformative storytelling. A fourth-generation Floridian, Jessi received her B.A. in Art History and English from Florida International University and began reporting for 83 Degrees in 2009. When she isn't writing, Jessi enjoys taking her deaf rescue dog on outdoors adventures, unearthing treasures in backroads antiques and thrift shops, D.I.Y. upcycling projects, and Florida-friendly gardening.