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Miami Institute for Human Genomics Receives $20M Gift for Research

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The Miller School’s Miami Institute for Human Genomics, nationally known for its work in unraveling some of the medical mysteries behind autism and other common diseases, has received a $20 million gift to support its critical research efforts.

Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., University President Donna E. Shalala and institute director Margaret Pericak–Vance, Ph.D., joined the donor, philanthropist John P. Hussman, Ph.D., in announcing the extraordinary commitment from the John P. Hussman Foundation. The institute will now be known as the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics.

President Shalala said the announcement marked “an incredible day” for the University, the medical school and the institute, which was created two years ago and has received an $80 million economic grant from the State of Florida and support from the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation.

“It will accelerate the growth of the institute and we will become the most important center of this kind anywhere in the world,” Shalala said at the renaming event held at the institute located in the Miller School’s Biomedical Research Building.

When she introduced Hussman, she described him as “a successful human being and civic leader, and a person who is willing to bet with people and institutions he deeply believes in. For that, we are grateful.”

Hussman, whose son was diagnosed with autism 12 years ago at age 3, said he was told then that nothing could be done to treat the disease.

“I am convinced that with the work here at the institute those days will be behind us,” Hussman said.

Funds from this gift will also go toward matching the state’s $80 million economic grant. The original state money was awarded based on recommendations from Enterprise Florida to the Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development.

Funds will support one of the first large–scale autism sequencing projects of its kind. The application of next generation genomic sequencing technology to the extensive autism family dataset will give institute researchers data that will implicate genes responsible for autism risk and explain how those genes cause autism.

The autism sequencing project will create a number of jobs at the institute and bolster the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s reputation as a center for cutting–edge research. Since its establishment in January 2007, faculty at the genomics institute have drawn attention to South Florida with breakthrough genomics discoveries in several human disorders including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.