USF loses Alzheimer’s researcher, two institutes

USF research funds and scientists will be lost as one of the university’s top researchers of Alzheimer’s disease leaves the university.

Michael Mullan, leader of two research institutes at USF, resigned last month following the conclusion of a sexual harassment investigation. Mullan said his resignation last month isn’t because of the investigation.

“As general background, we’re not a good fit at the university anymore,” Mullan said.

Three complaints of sexual harassment were filed against Mullan, one dating back to 1997.

A year after the first complaint, Mullan founded the Roskamp Institute, which is dedicated to finding treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

About 40 employees will leave with him, as will the remainder of a $5 million grant.

The Roskamp Institute will be relocated to Sarasota, and the Memory Disorder Clinic, which Mullan ran, will move elsewhere in Tampa.

Michael Hoad, associate vice president for the Health Sciences Center, said because Mullan’s money came from a donor, USF will not try to retain the remaining $80,000 of the grant, which was being used to help develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

“It’s really money that supports him, and that’s the intent of the donor,” Hoad said. “It would be poor donor relations to fuss over it.”

A majority of Mullan’s funding came from philanthropist Robert Roskamp.

But about five months ago, Mullan said he was offered a $6 million grant from the Department of Defense, which the university declined.

Mullan said the university’s reasoning was it would not receive enough money in return from the grant after it was used for research.

But Robert Daugherty, vice president for the Health Sciences Center, said he doesn’t recall USF refusing a grant of that amount.

“I think that a $6-million grant that comes to the university would be accepted,” Daugherty said. “I’m not sure what Dr. Mullan is referring to.”

“This whole fight is about money,” Mullan said. “I almost certainly would have left USF two or three years ago had it not been for Mr. Roskamp.”

Mullan said funding and support from the university was lacking, making research difficult. Mullan said one of his main reasons for moving the research institutes is to have a more adequate facility.

The Roskamp Institute will relocate to a 43,000-square-foot facility. Mullan said that at USF, the institute was housed in a 5,000-square-foot facility.

Daugherty said research space is a problem for all faculty members.

“Five thousand square feet is more than any other faculty member in the College of Medicine,” Daugherty said. “This is an opportunity for Dr. Mullan. I can see why he moved there.”

Daugherty said he is not angry that Mullan is relocating the institutes and added that there are faculty members in the school who can contribute to Alzheimer’s research.

Daugherty said David Morgan, a researcher in the department of pharmacology, is working on an Alzheimer’s vaccine, and Hunt Potter, a researcher in biochemistry, is working on a study to better understand the cause of Alzheimer’s.