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USF nabs Gator researcher Phillips

In the world of research money, USF is playing catch-up to its university neighbor to the north. Now, it is seeking the help of one of the researchers who helped oversee the University of Florida’s program by bringing him to Tampa.

USF hired internationally recognized scientist Dr. Ian Phillips as vice president for research in December. The 64-year-old researcher will move from his position as associate vice president for research at the UF on Jan. 31.

UF’s research program brings in $400 million in research money.

USF may be a Research I Institute, but its program brings in only $207 million in grants and contracts annually. USF wants its share of the research spotlight that is currently focused on UF and Florida State.

The state of Florida may have given them that chance.

In May of 2002 the state of Florida created a program that will award $30 million to certain Florida universities. The university must excel in research and prove that they aid the state’s economy. Hiring Phillips marks a step toward USF becoming one of these “centers of excellence.”

“I think USF is just poised to become a great university,” Phillips said. “USF has the right academics and geography to become a great university.”

He envisions his job as helping faculty conduct high-quality research and developing the university to its full potential.

“If we have high-quality research, we will attract high quality students and faculty,” Phillips said.

Phillips replaces interim Vice President for Research Dr. Bruce Lindsey.

Job duties will include raising funds for research, dealing with state rules and regulations, and providing an environment conducive to high-quality research.

The renowned researcher was hired at the end of December because his extensive knowledge and research fits perfectly with USF’s emphasis on bioengineering and life sciences, according to Media Relations Coordinator Michelle Carlyon.

His research has focused on gene therapy for hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Also, he has developed a gene that functions to reduce damage to the heart cell from repeated heart attacks. He said the gene therapy also applies to treating diabetes.

He is also working on replacement gene therapy for treating anthrax, heart attacks and strokes.

Phillips is fully funded by the National Institutes of Health and hopes to bring his $800,000 of equipment and grants to USF. He received the NIH Merit Award, which is given to fewer than 1 percent of NIH grant recipients. His numerous other awards include one from the Christopher Columbus Foundation for innovative research. He’s held administrative positions for the National Science Foundation and the NIH.

“I’m excited about joining President Genshaft and her team,” Phillips said. “I feel that we are all committed to increasing research and the stature of USF.”

Phillips has his agenda planned.

“The first thing I want to do is see if we can make the life of faculty less bureaucratic,” Phillips said.

His other plans include recruiting from the National Academy of Sciences, raising funds for a cardiovascular center and developing USF connections with the biotechnology businesses in the Tampa area.

He said Florida, the fourth largest state, deserves a few great universities. It isn’t a school versus school competition to Phillips.

“I don’t see us so much as competing with Florida,” Phillips said. “I see us as competing with the world.”