UF expands into Orlando with new Research and Academic Center
By Czerne M. Reid
A new UF research and education center in Orlando features vital research on new therapies and cures, increased opportunities for participation in clinical research and enhanced access to professional and graduate pharmacy education.
The UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona officially opened Nov. 30. The $53 million roughly 106,000-square-foot facility extends UF’s presence into the greater Orlando area.
“The new center harnesses the resources, expertise and research capabilities of multidisciplinary teams, bringing together renowned researchers, clinicians, teachers and students with the ultimate goal of providing effective therapies and improving health for patients,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System.
The center’s proximity to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Nemours Children’s Hospital and other health care organizations within the Lake Nona Medical City complex and the wider Orlando area will foster collaboration that stimulates innovative approaches to research and patient care.
“We, and the other major partners at Lake Nona, put down roots not to reproduce what we already have, but to originate what we all wish for: research and innovation that elevates our ambitions, magnifies our strengths, accelerates our achievements and — lest we lose sight of the most important goal — benefits society at large,” said UF President Bernie Machen.
The UF College of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology, housed at the new facility, is among the first academic centers in the nation to adopt sophisticated mathematical modeling and computer simulations to mimic clinical trials of new drugs.
“Our mission revolves around getting efficacious, safe and affordable drugs to the American public and the people in Florida,” said Larry Lesko, Ph.D., director of the center.
The pharmacy research center complements the education efforts of the College of Pharmacy; Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows will complete their training in the new center. The new facility also allows expansion of the UF professional Pharm.D. program from 200 students to 280 over four years.
The UF Institute for Therapeutic Innovation focuses on developing and testing new treatments and cures for a variety of infectious diseases caused by drug-resistant pathogens. The work has far-reaching implications for the practice of medicine, notably with respect to surgeries and organ transplantation, procedures that rely heavily on infection control.
“The ability to treat hospital-acquired infections supports the ability to do all those things,” said institute director George L. Drusano, M.D. “That’s the impact of having these new drugs.”
The campus also allows residents of Orlando and its environs to more easily take part in ongoing and new clinical studies. The ability to broaden the pool of study participants to more of Florida’s residents will help strengthen the reliability of data collected and the validity of conclusions drawn from clinical studies. The UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute will help increase participation in clinical studies such as the Institute on Aging’s studies and others by connecting patients with a wide range of clinical trials.
“The UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona represents a community of researchers and educators working together to help meet the health needs of our broader community and the nation,” Guzick said. “This investment in the lives and health of our citizens will yield dividends for generations to come.”