UF Health is home to nine major health-related research centers and institutes designed to create synergies and collaborative research opportunities. Research activities at the academic health center reflect a depth of purpose by focusing on the translational nature of biomedical research, following the continuum from fundamental research to clinical research to patient care.
The UF Health Cancer Center provides innovative research and high-quality clinical care to help prevent, detect and ultimately treat cancer. The UF Health Cancer Center includes a teaching hospital and accompanying physician practices, where 3,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients are seen each year, and a 115,000-square-foot cancer research center for laboratory studies with additional space for clinical researchers and coordinators of clinical trials. Director Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., has overseen the recruitment of more than a dozen basic, translational and clinical researchers to bolster cancer research programs. Also, 8,000 square feet of new wet lab bench space is being constructed in the Basic Science Building for cancer research, an Experimental Therapeutics Incubator is being developed to facilitate investigator-initiated clinical trials, and a new curriculum in Cancer Biology for doctoral candidates has been initiated.
The center collaborates with HealthStreet, a community engagement program at UF that focuses on closing gaps in health care and health research, which helps encourage enrollment of underrepresented minorities in clinical trials. Likewise, the Florida Minority Cancer Research and Training program exemplifies the center’s aim to diversify the workforce of those dedicated to cancer research.
Clinical and Translational Science Institute
The UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute speeds the movement of scientific discoveries into improved health in our communities and beyond. Translational research means moving the discoveries that scientists make in the laboratory bench to the bedside in the form of new drugs, devices and treatment options and ensuring that effective new approaches reach people who need them. The CTSI provides opportunities for people to participate in health research conducted at the university through clinical research studies, programs such as HealthStreet and initiatives such as the Citizen Scientist program. Researchers use volunteers to participate in studies, some of which end early because of a shortage of participants. The institute helps connect people with research opportunities in Gainesville and beyond. Anyone wishing to become involved in such research can visit ctsi.ufl.edu/community or ufhealth.org/research-studies-clinical-trials.
Formed in 2015, the UF Diabetes Institute is the umbrella organization under which diabetes education, research, prevention and treatment are coordinated at UF and the academic health center. More than 100 faculty members with the institute are working to prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes in the areas of genetics, endocrinology, epidemiology, patient and physician education, health outcomes and policy, behavioral science, rural medicine and more. Led by director Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D., the institute is widely considered to be among the top five in the nation for type 1 diabetes research. UF is internationally recognized for its efforts in diabetes care and research, and houses a model for statewide diabetes education through collaboration with UF/IFAS Extension in all 67 Florida counties.
Emerging Pathogens Institute
Florida’s unique geography and climate require novel disease prevention and control strategies. Florida’s residents and industries, especially agriculture and tourism, are threatened by new diseases, such as Zika virus, dengue fever, H1N1 swine flu and citrus greening. The Emerging Pathogens Institute was created in 2006 to provide a world-class research environment to facilitate interdisciplinary studies of emergence and control of human, animal and plant pathogens of concern to Florida, the nation and the world. EPI’s goals are to understand the genetic changes (and evolutionary drivers) that lead to the emergence of new pathogens; to appreciate the complex interaction of environmental and host factors that permit these pathogens to spread within plant, animal and human populations; to train the next generation of investigators in emerging diseases, within a unique, interdisciplinary setting; and to disseminate information about emerging pathogens, and their control, to the people of Florida.
The Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute
The Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida is one of the nation’s most comprehensive and technologically advanced centers devoted to discovering how the normal brain operates and how we can repair the brain amid injury, disease or aging. The MBI is a research and teaching center that conducts integrated research in neuroscience, neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry. Strategic areas of focus for the MBI include neurodegeneration (such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), age-related memory loss, brain and spinal cord injuries, brain tumors and addiction. Led by executive director Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., the MBI has 200,000 square feet of research space where more than 300 UF faculty members from over 50 academic departments interact.
The UF Genetics Institute is a biomedical research center that promotes collaborative and multidisciplinary research using the tools of genetics and genomics. Formed in 1999, the UF Genetics Institute involves more than 240 faculty members representing seven colleges and 50 academic departments. Their research includes fields such as human genetics, bioinformatics, agricultural and plant biology, and evolutionary biology. They also study relevant and pressing issues such as the impact of climate change, health-related genetic mutations and feeding an expanding global population.
Institute on Aging
The UF Institute on Aging, formed in 2005, builds relationships between researchers who study aging in different fields. In addition to providing primary care on the UF campus as well as care at the retirement community Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, the Institute on Aging is also changing the way older adults receive care at UF Health Shands Hospital. Geriatricians are embedded in the hospital’s trauma unit and the general hospital unit. They meet with older patients to help design health care around their unique needs and the diverse medical conditions they may have. The institute also focuses on the prevention of injury and illness in older adults. Other recent research endeavors include studying methods to help these patients better manage pain, preserve cognitive abilities and maintain mobility. Maintaining mobility and independence helps older adults prevent memory and cognition from declining.
Institute for Child Health Policy
Founded in 1988, the UF Institute for Child Health Policy focuses on improving health care delivery, leveraging the power of big data to improve health, advancing health research and helping the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Elizabeth A. Shenkman, Ph.D., is the institute’s director and chair of the department of health outcomes and policy in the UF College of Medicine.
UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona
The University of Florida expanded its footprint in Orlando on Nov. 30, 2012, when it opened the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona. The $53 million, 106,000-square-foot LEED-certified facility is home to hundreds of faculty, staff and students working in several institutes, centers and college branches. They include the UF College of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology; the UF College of Pharmacy Medication Therapy Management Communication and Care Center; the UF Institute for Therapeutic Innovation; the UF Institute on Aging; and the UF College of Medicine; and the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Community Engagement and Research Program.