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Byrd affiliates with USF to share resources

After months of debate, the Alzheimer’s research institute on campus will become part of USF and a seven-member board will be created to control the institute’s budget.

The Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center & Research Institute board of directors approved a plan Friday to officially affiliate the institute with the University. The plan includes the new board, which will include four members from USF. The plan also makes Steve Klasko, USF Health Sciences vice president and dean of the College of Medicine, the Institute’s chief executive officer.

The plan was proposed by Johnnie B. Byrd Jr., founder of the institute, former Florida Speaker of the House and member of the board.

The institute’s affiliation with USF will allow it to share information with the University, Byrd said, making it easier to work toward its main goal.

“USF has so many resources and opportunities and so many connections with other entities that, working together, we could really accelerate the research of preventing and curing Alzheimer’s,” he said.

Byrd said he was against a legislative attempt to bring the institute completely under USF’s control. The new agreement, however, is more of a partnership.

“We have been looking forward for three or four years to a close affiliation with the University of South Florida, and I am excited it is on the cusp of fruition,” he said.

Melanie Meyer, chief of external affairs for the institute, said that anything that moves the mission forward is a good thing.

“I think the board was very positive about getting down to an affiliation agreement with USF that would make our working relationship more seamless,” she said.

Ann DeLotto Baier, director of public affairs for USF Health, said the partnership will combine the resources of the institute and the University.

“It’s a good thing for both institutions,” she said. “It makes a lot of sense.”

The plan is still in the early stages, however. Meyer said a committee will be established to clarify the University’s role with the institute.

“The Byrd Institute is going to stay focused on getting a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but we will be more a part of USF Health,” she said. “The important point is that both parties agree that good things can come from this and that the Byrd stays focused on Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to complete daily activities, according to the National Institute on Aging. A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s influences the parts of the brain associated with memory, thought and language. The institute was named after Byrd’s father, Johnnie B. Byrd Sr., who suffered from the disease.