Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Gov. Crist Delivers $80 million to Miami Institute for Human Genomics

01.31.2008

The University of Miami’s mission to become an internationally renowned scientific research powerhouse received a big boost today when Florida Governor Charlie Crist formally announced the awarding of an $80 million grant to the Miami Institute for Human Genomics during a news conference on the medical campus.

The Institute at the Miller School is home to the world’s top geneticists who conduct leading-edge work in identifying genetic variants that underlie common human diseases.

“We’re always mindful of how important projects like these are,” Governor Crist said. “Not only will it improve the quality of lives, it will save lives. Let me repeat that, it will save lives. It will also help our economy, a tremendous byproduct of what we’re talking about here today.”

Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who was instrumental in helping UM obtain the grant, joined the governor at the announcement.

“This is part of the creation of a vibrant and diverse economy that holds all the promise of this new century, all the promise of a knowledge-based economy,” said Rubio.

Speaking at the news conference, University President Donna Shalala described the funding as “an extraordinary grant from the state that I believe will transform South Florida.”

“The two great leaders we have here with us today truly see the connection between what scientists do in the laboratories and how their work leads to products that will eventually reach the patients’ bedsides,” Shalala said of the Governor and House Speaker. “With their work we are well on our way to developing South Florida as a life science cluster with an unsurpassed economic potential.”

The award is based on recommendations from Enterprise Florida to the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development. Enterprise Florida’s recommendation came after a study and various analyses that found that the Innovation Incentive Fund award would help induce the creation of about 300 new jobs paying a salary of at least $62,000.

In talking about the economic boost the award will bring, Governor Crist and all the speakers acknowledged several people who also hand a hand in making sure UM got the funds. Many of those thanks went to Norman Braman, the vice chair of the UM Board of Trustees, who Governor Crist described as “a man of great kindness, an amazing human being. “

In explaining the important medical role of the Institute, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School, said successful discoveries at the Institute may determine “from the time you are born, what type of illnesses may actually damage your health” and determine appropriate prevention.

“That is what the Miami Institute for Human Genomics will provide as an opportunity to everyone in Miami, in Florida, and way beyond, the United States and the world,” Dean Goldschmidt said.

The Miami Institute for Human Genomics, established at the Miller School a year ago, has already drawn international attention for the groundbreaking work of Institute director Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., and Jeffery Vance, M.D., Ph.D. Pericak-Vance is also the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Vance will become the chairman of a newly created department that Dean Goldschmidt will recommend be named the Dr. John T. Macdonald Department of Human Genetics and Genomic Medicine.

During the news conference Dean Goldschmidt singled out the foundation for its overwhelming support of genetics research at the Miller School of Medicine over the years.

Most recently, Pericak-Vance co-led a multi-center study, published in July, that for the first time in 30 years uncovered a gene linked to multiple sclerosis (MS) that could pave the way for future research and treatment options. The Vances and their team have uncovered critical clues to the origins of diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, age-related macular degeneration and autism.

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