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Education

USF starts building $50 million heart institute

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Published:   |   Updated: December 18, 2013 at 09:13 AM

TAMPA — A structure reflecting new thinking in the research and treatment of heart disease is rising on the campus of the University of South Florida.

University and local government officials broke ground Tuesday on the USF Health Heart Institute — a $50 million, five-story building that will feature laboratories, office space designed for interdisciplinary collaboration, a clinical care center, auditorium and blood sample repository for genetic testing.

“USF is working tirelessly to make heart disease less of a threat to the health and well-being of our community,” said Judy Genshaft, president of the USF system. “Today, we take a huge step forward in our efforts as we begin work on building our new USF Health Heart Institute.”

Heart disease is the nation’s number-one killer, and is number two in Florida behind cancer. USF researchers are turning to the molecular and genetic causes of the condition, which could lead to new methods for predicting, preventing, diagnosing and treating it.

Dr. Stephen Liggett has already identified a genetic signature that can predict which heart patients might be saved from fatal arrhythmias. USF plans to invest up to $25 million in resources for genomics-based medicine research and recruitment of faculty.

“Your DNA already knows if you’re going to have a heart attack and when. Your DNA already knows if one of our drugs will save your life or won’t,” said Dr. Harry van Loveren, interim dean of USF Health’s Morsani College of Medicine. “The heart research that will be done here will unlock the secrets of your personal DNA, see into your future and hopefully change it. ... Because of what we learn here, your children and my children will live happier and healthier lives.”

The state Legislature allocated $6.9 million to the project last year and another $12.5 million this year. Hillsborough County also pledged $2 million to the project.

About $30 million will be needed to complete the building. House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, attended the groundbreaking and promised to make good on the rest.

“I can tell you that the Legislature, myself and the Florida House are committed to seeing this project through — not just funding it, but making sure the resources and policy are embedded around it to make this a world-class institution in Tampa Bay and the state of Florida,” Weatherford said.

The 100,000 square foot building will be located in the research hub that includes the Morsani medical school, the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and the Moffitt Cancer Center.

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