Byrd Institute awaits funding news

For the second year in a row, the Johnnie S. Byrd, Sr. Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute received no funding from the state. The institute awaits a decision to see if it will receive another five-year research grant.

The five-year grant, awarded to the Institute in 2004, designates the facility as an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). The institute must reapply for this title every five years.

The National Institute of Aging (NIA) reviews applications and determines which institutes will receive ADRC grants. Dr. Huntington Potter, the chief executive officer and scientific director of the Byrd Institute, submitted the ADRC renewal application May 5.

Potter said the ADRC would give the Institute about $1.4 million each year.

Dr. Steve Klasko, chief executive officer of the Byrd Institute, said that in order to receive the national designation the institute has to prove it will put money into a statewide initiative for Alzheimer’s research.

Since the institute did not receive any state funding last year or any for the upcoming year, it is spending its available funds of $8 million.

“We’re in essence spending the reserves,” Klasko said. “It would be like somebody stopped making money and they were spending their savings account and eventually that goes out.”

If the institute does not receive the grant, it will no longer be a national Alzheimer’s institute, he said.

Only 16 ADRC grants are awarded throughout the country. The Byrd Institute is the only Alzheimer’s research institute in Florida that is designated as an ADRC.

Dr. David Morgan, senior scientist at the Byrd Institute, said the institute also has to provide matching funds in order to use ADRC grant money.

“The problem is we don’t know if we can provide those matching funds,” Morgan said.

He said the institute will find out in the fall whether they will be awarded another ADRC grant.

The Byrd Institute has a $5 million budget per year, Morgan said. Last year, the institute cut nearly 50 percent of its administration staff  because of a lack of funding.

However, the institute’s Board of Directors and USF’s Board of Trustees agreed to an affiliation June 20, 2008, making the institute part of the USF College of Medicine.

“One advantage of being a part of USF is the need for administration staff is lessened,” Morgan said. “It is now less expensive for the building to maintain itself … I think joining up with USF is a new day at the Byrd Institute.”

The institute anticipates that the governor will sign Senate Bill 1696, Section 5. The Senate passed the bill, which legalizes the already existent USF-Byrd affiliation on Friday.

Mark Walsh, associate vice president of government relations, said it was “almost out of necessity” that the two institutions merged.

He said that even if the governor chooses not to sign the bill, the Byrd Institute and USF could maintain their own affiliation agreement.

Morgan said he has a “hopeful” attitude about the future of the Byrd Institute. He said state funds would reduce the negative economic effects of Alzheimer’s.

“If we can delay (Alzheimer’s), slowing it down longer (reduces the time patients) have to be institutionalized,” he said. “It’s almost like a no-brainer in terms of how to invest your money.”