Academic research is a key component of high-tech growth and a powerful economic engine. The presence of cutting-edge research in the region is vital to technology transfer, which enables innovative ideas discovered in academia to achieve commercialization in the marketplace. Tampa Bay has several powerhouse research centers that are engaged in both pure scientific research and aggressively pursuing technology transfer to enrich people’s lives.
University of South Florida
USF is known nationally for its work in the medical sciences and biotechnology; marine science and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems); engineering, and nanotechnology and medical science. The university’s reputation as one of the top 60 public research universities in the country has blossomed with total university research funding reaching $290 million in 2004. The National Science Research Foundation ranks USF 29th among all universities in medical science research and development expenditures.
More than half of the research dollars to date have been generated by the USF Health Sciences Center, which combines the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and the Center for Physical Therapy. Health Sciences Center research funding jumped nearly 26 percent in 2003 to $119.7 million. Much of the focus is aimed at finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.
Last year the university also broke ground on a new $14 million College of Nursing and Integrated Education Building, which will offer an innovative curriculum designed to allow collaboration between the various healthcare disciplines of medicine, nursing and public health. The nursing school increased enrollment from 70 to 120 students to help meet the growing shortage of nurses nationwide.
The USF Research Park
To foster collaboration among academia and business and speed the transfer of knowledge to the marketplace, USF broke ground in 2005 on a new 87-acre Research Park. The park will serve as a center of biotechnology and life science research and entrepreneurship, and bring together the disciplines of bioengineering and life sciences medicine, biomedical engineering and medical manufacturing.
Offices for the USF Center for Biological Defense, the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator, the USF Center for Entrepreneurship and private business partners will be housed there, as well as the Florida Medical Manufacturers Consortium.
USF researchers are actively involved in many innovative life science projects, including:
- The Rehabilitation Engineering and Technology Program is funded by the Florida Department of Education to support new technology in rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and to assist them with employment opportunities.
- In the College of Engineering, researchers are investigating the use of nanotechnology – nanoscale science and technology – to manipulate molecules and discover new methods of drug delivery, cancer detection and more.
- The USF Center for Robotic Search and Rescue is developing high-tech search and rescue robots with many applications.
- The USF Center for Ocean Technology using MEMS (microelectromechnical) technology to design underwater marine science sensors, and now, medical-related products. Research is underway to develop tiny instruments used in cochlear implants to improve hearing, equipment to monitor vital signs and infections in high-risk newborns, and internal insulin pumps for people with diabetes.
- The USF Center for Biological Defense is researching more effective methods of detecting bio-terrorist agents.
- In 2004, the USF Life Sciences Entrepreneurship program, part of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship, was ranked the number one specialty program for training new entrepreneurs in the country. The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship calls the center "a national model exportable to other universities across the country." The Life Sciences program places emphasis in the areas of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices.
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute
The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute is a nationally recognized hospital and research center for cancer prevention and treatment. It is one of only 38 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S. At its location on the USF campus, more than 700 Moffitt scientists and clinicians oversee some 200 grant-supported research projects. A new Vincent A. Stabile Research Building opened last year, adding 200,000 square feet more laboratory space. Funded research projects totaled $53 million in 2003.
Moffitt is known for its landmark research discoveries in the area of functional genomics, molecular targeting, anti-cancer vaccines and genetic testing. A $3.2 million U.S. Department of Defense grant is helping establish the National Functional Genomics Center. Moffitt scientists are using functional genomics to profile cancer cells and examine how genes instruct cells to become normal or abnormal.
The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator
The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator fosters small start-up biotechnology and life sciences’ companies, helping them achieve success in developing and commercializing innovative ideas. About a dozen fledgling companies will be moving into the new Incubator when it opens this year. Here are some examples:
Tampa Shriners Hospital for Children
The Center for Research in Skeletal Development and Pediatric Orthopaedics at the Tampa Shriners Hospital is also located on the USF campus. The center is dedicated to developing a better understanding of children's musculoskeletal problems and identifying new and better treatments, especially in the areas of congenital orthopaedic deformities; diseases of the bones, joints and muscles; and orthopaedic conditions resulting from traumatic injuries. The Tampa hospital is one of 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The hospitals were founded by the Shrine Fraternal Order to provide free care to children under 18 with severe burns, orthopedic or spinal cord conditions.
Shriners International Headquarters, which houses the headquarters for both Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Shriners of North America fraternity, is also located in Tampa. This administrative center coordinates the patient care and research programs, as well as all other day-to-day activities of the international network of 22 Shriners Hospitals and the Shrine fraternity.
All Children’s Hospital
In Pinellas County, The Children’s Research Institute at All Children’s Hospital works in partnership with USF to investigate children’s health in immunology, oncology, pediatric heart transplantation and behavioral pediatrics. All Children’s Hospital is one of two freestanding children’s hospitals in Florida and the only one on the state’s west coast. The hospital is a leading center for heart and kidney transplantation, pediatric immunology, cystic fibrosis, cardiology, neurosurgery, genetics, cleft palate and craniofacial disorders.
The Tampa Bay Research Institute
Also in Pinellas, the Tampa Bay Research Institute (TBRI) is the first independent biomedical research institute of its kind in Florida. The Institute is dedicated to the study, cure and prevention of chronic and infectious diseases with emphasis on gaining a better understanding of the immune system. TBRI research programs are lead by co-founder and President Akiko Tanaka, Ph.D. Research projects include work on an oral botanical drug to boost the immune system, viral drugs to be used against the herpes virus, and developing vaccine technologies for biodefense initiatives.
Florida Blood Services
Florida Blood Services, located in Pinellas County, is currently partnering with USF on research to develop innovative testing for further screening and safety of the nation’s blood supply. Florida Blood Services is also a testing resource for east coast blood centers and medical facilities. The nonprofit organization distributes blood and blood products to hospitals and ambulatory care centers in three Tampa Bay counties.
The Silverstein Institute
The Ear Research Foundation at the Silverstein Institute in Sarasota is a nonprofit research, development and educational facility for medical conditions related to hearing disorders. The Foundation is affiliated with medical schools at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of South Florida. Graduate physicians specializing in otolaryngology can pursue fellowship training at the institute.
The Silverstein Institute also offers patient care services and community education through the Florida Ear and Sinus Center, the Facial Plastic Surgery Center and Medical Hearing Aid Systems.
The Young-Rainey STAR Center
The nonprofit National Forensic Science Technology at the Young-Rainey STAR Center (a former U.S. Department of Energy Plant in Pinellas County) serves as a resource on DNA testing to crime labs around the country. Another STAR Center company, Constellation Technology, is conducting research to developing radiation, chemical and biological sensors to protect the public in the area of homeland security.
The Pepin Heart Hospital
The Pepin Heart Hospital and Research Institute at University Community Hospital in Tampa is a unique partnership with the hospital, Tampa philanthropist Art Pepin and GE Medical Systems, Inc. The new $40 million Pepin center will serve as a GE Medical Systems showcase for advanced digital imaging technology in cardiovascular diagnosis and treatment. It will feature an expanded research program that builds on collaborative efforts already in place with the National Institutes of Health, Duke University’s Clinical Research Facility, the Cleveland Clinic and other centers. A large auditorium will host clinical research and education seminars.
Clinical Research Service at Sarasota Memorial Hospital
Sarasota Memorial was one of the first non-academic hospitals in the nation to develop a clinical research service, and has conducted some 250 patient care trials in the past 12 years. The Clinical Research Center at Sarasota Memorial Hospital is a designated research department with studies underway in areas ranging from cardiology to neurosurgery and stroke.
Tampa General Hospital Clinical Research Center
Tampa General Hospital is the primary teaching facility for USF, and supports both teaching and research missions for new medical discoveries. The hospital’s dedicated Clinical Research Center coordinates some 165 drug, device, procedural, survey and observational research studies.
The Watson Clinic Center for Research
The Watson Clinic Center for Research provides administrative structure for Watson Clinic physicians conducting research studies primarily in cardiovascular and cancer care. The Watson Center for Cancer Care & Research is an affiliate of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, along with Morton Plant Hospital and Morton Plant North Bay Hospital.
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