UF Health unveils innovative new facility to treat debilitating neurological conditions

The Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health has recently unveiled its new, world-class clinical care and research building, marking its latest step in the pursuit of providing the nation’s most comprehensive and advanced care for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The new facility opens to patients July 1.

The $9 million state-of-the-art building — which will feature some of the foremost experts in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, dystonia, Lewy body dementia, ALS and concussions — was made possible by the generous support of many donors, including the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation and Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure.

The Fixel family built upon their support of the new facility with an additional $20 million gift in January to the University of Florida and UF Health that established the Fixel Institute, aimed at advancing research, technological innovation and clinical care for neurological diseases. That gift was matched by UF for a total funding package of $40 million, propelling a $100 million capital campaign to provide new resources for researchers and physician-scientists working to discover revolutionary treatments and pursue cures.

The institute will expand upon the interdisciplinary service and science hub specialty care model started in 2011 as the UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration by Michael S. Okun, M.D., chair of the UF department of neurology, and UF neurosurgeon Kelly D. Foote, M.D.

Under the groundbreaking hub model, a care team including neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and swallowing specialists, nutritionists, psychiatrists and social workers all work together under one roof to foster a collaborative partnership among the care team. Once it opens, the facility, which will house the UF Health Neuromedicine – Williston Road practice, will significantly expand the previous center’s space to 24,700 square feet, 28 exam rooms and seven therapy rooms — including three clinical trials rooms and a telemedicine room.

“The mission of the Fixel Institute is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people with complex neurological disorders through interdisciplinary care, innovative research and the teaching of the next generation of practitioners,” said Foote, co-director of the Fixel Institute.

The facility will incorporate indoor and outdoor rehabilitation, spaces to meditate, a clinical trials center and five laboratory spaces for researchers.

“This new facility is going to not only deliver medicine, but facilitate the healing process,” said Okun, executive director of the Fixel Institute. “We often forget that it’s not just the medicines and therapies, it’s patients and families who need to heal, and we need to have the right team members to help them live happy and meaningful lives despite the presence of neurological disease.”

The Fixel family’s gifts have prompted a search to bring the world’s top talent to Gainesville along with their related programs. Over the past six months, three renowned neuroscientists from leading research institutions have committed to join the Fixel Institute. The new researchers are:

  • Malú G. Tansey, Ph.D., a professor of physiology and director of the Center for Neurodysfunction and Inflammation at Emory University School of Medicine
  • Matthew LaVoie, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Stefan Prokop, M.D., a neuropathology fellow and research fellow at the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

“We are thinking broadly and establishing a coordinated approach to improvement of clinical care, drug discovery, as well as gene and neuromodulatory therapy,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “Our outstanding team of experts will continue to push the boundaries in identifying new, game-changing approaches to treating neurologic disease.”

In addition to these faculty hires, the newly created Fixel Scholars Endowment will be used to support fellowship and postdoctoral researchers, all with a primary focus on Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. Prokop will be the first designated Fixel Scholar, and Tansey and LaVoie will become the first endowed chairs of the Fixel Institute.

“The generosity of the Fixels will aid in providing superb clinical care, allowing even more patients to participate in clinical research studies and enhancing our collaborative basic research efforts throughout the university,” said Todd E. Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida. “It will bolster our search of translational therapies to change the lives of millions of patients suffering from neurological diseases and conditions.”

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