Heart Health Institute to serve as ‘economic driver’
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 00:04
Though Florida’s State University System has seen $300 million in funding cuts, USF scored $6.9 million to start its USF Heart Health Institute.
The day after the budget was signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the Hillsborough County Commission granted $2 million more and USF Health has pledged an additional $25 million to start the institute. However, the center will need an additional $42 million in state funds next year to break ground on a 100,000-square-foot facility with almost 60 employees.
USF Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences Dr. Leslie Miller said the money awarded will help with planning, and USF has already been able to recruit two nationally prominent doctors who specialize in personalized medicine — Dr. Jennifer Hall and Dr. Stephen Liggett.
USF President Judy Genshaft and USF Health CEO and College of Medicine Dean Stephen Klasko have made the USF Heart Health Institute the “No. 1 funding priority for the next three years,” he said.
“I think everyone can stand taller when we say we’re addressing the biggest health concern of this region,” Miller said. “I think the governor and all the Legislature saw that this is not some parochial, self-serving interest but we’re truly serving a community need here.”
Mark Sharpe, a Hillsborough County commissioner who pushed for the project to be funded by the city, said in an interview with The Oracle that the new institute will serve as an economic driver in the community.
“I believe that when you combine the University of South Florida with the power of personalized medicine, you have an economic winner,” he said. “It’s going to impact our areas in a number of ways. It’s going to make USF and the Tampa Bay region recognized as the leader in cardiovascular research. It’s going to create a number of job opportunities to do both work and research and to collaborate with USF. It helps the entire region because it makes us a destination for people looking for quality heart care.”
Miller said statistics show that heart disease is an age-related disease, and Florida has one of the oldest populations in the nation.
“The burden and prevalence of cardiovascular disease here is higher than it is anywhere in the country,” he said. “I think it’s truly important to be treating and addressing the needs of the population in the area to create a new array of diagnostics and therapies (and it) requires something like a new heart institute committed to making new discoveries.”
One in four people in the U.S. have heart disease, Miller said. By 2020, one in three people will have it.
But by then, he said, USF will have a center unlike any other in the world that personalizes treatments and diagnostics of cardiovascular disease based on genes.
The institute’s approach to personalized medicine will pair patients’ genetic information to global databases to tailor treatments to the individual’s genetic makeup. It will soon begin its first set of clinical trials as part of a partnership with the American College of Cardiology, Miller said. Florida Hospital’s Pepin Institute will also partner with USF Health for clinical trials.
“We’ve had the human genome characterized for about 10 years, but the concept of how it could be applied to alter individualized care in terms of drug selection, drug dosing and diagnosing the disease earlier was one of the two major pillars I had as the original design for the institute,” Miller said.
The U.S. spends $280 billion to combat heart disease, he said. By 2030, that number will triple.
“We can’t begin to imagine paying for that kind of need,” he said. “That’s why we need newer diagnostics and ways to find the disease earlier and newer and more effective therapies than we had before — it’s absolutely critical not just for here, in Tampa, but across the world.”