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USF Health Heart Institute Promises Cardiac Treatment on Genetic Level

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Mark Schreiner
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Despite not having all the funding accounted for yet, ground was broken Tuesday on the USF Health Heart Institute. 

The five-story, 100,000 square-foot facility will sit in the middle of the USF Health campus -- Moffitt Cancer Center and the USF Health Morsani Center take up the other three corners of the intersection where the new Institute will be based.

The Institute is expected to cost $50 million to build. However, the state and Hillsborough County have awarded USF about $21.4 million so far. House Speaker Will Weatherford says he'll fight for the portion of the remaining funding from the state.

"This is a need; this is a need for the university, it's a need for the city of Tampa, it's a need for the state of Florida, and so I feel very confident that we're going to be able to find some funds to continue to contribute to this construction project and hopefully see it come out of the ground very soon," Weatherford said.

Multiple speakers at the ground-breaking pointed out that need, emphasizing that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the country, and, according to Florida Vital Statistics 2012, the second leading cause in Florida, behind cancer.

In light of that need, USF President Judy Genshaft remains optimistic the money can be found.

"We need to get started with the building -- building takes at least a year if not longer, especially the kind of lab requirements and everything, so we need to get started," Genshaft said. "We will raise the money and so, it's really all about getting going and making sure our researchers have the facilities that they need to do the best work."

USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Interim Dean Dr. Harry van Loveren said that work includes cutting-edge genomics-based research, which involves studying a patient's DNA to develop specific therapies targeted at them.

"This is really unlocking DNA to understand not heart disease in a global sense, but heart disease for each  and every individual, so this is personalized healthcare," van Loveren said. "This is understanding how your heart is going to react to certain treatments, certain diseases as we go forward; not you as just a group or a population, you as an individual."

USF plans to invest up to an additional $25 million for that genomics-based research and recruitment of faculty.

No date has been set for the opening of the Heart Institute at this time.

Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.