Gov. Rick Scott awards USF, Moffitt grant funds to fight Zika

TAMPA — The University of South Florida received nearly $2.5 million for Zika research on Wednesday as Gov. Rick Scott announced grants to 10 universities and research institutions in Florida to speed up development of a vaccine.

The Moffitt Cancer Center also received almost $200,000, according to a news release.

Scott announced the 34 grant awards Wednesday in Tampa, following his authorization last fall of $25 million in state funds for the research and vaccine development.

The funds will help organizations expedite vaccine development to prevent Zika infection while also aiding researchers in understanding more about the virus and the long-term impact it may have on children and adults. The grants are also intended to support institutions in developing cost-effective testing methods of the virus.

"While we are currently in winter months when Zika is not as prevalent," Gov. Scott said in a statement, "we must remain vigilant and continue to do everything we can to help protect pregnant women and their developing babies."

The state‘s surgeon general, Dr. Celeste Philip, said in a statement that Florida can‘t relax its efforts to fight Zika during the current winter reprieve from mosquitoes.

According to a statement from Scott‘s office, the University of Miami received the largest grant award at more than $13 million.

The Florida Department of Health oversaw the grant process, which was awarded through a competitive process based on recommendations by the Biomedical Research Advisory Council. Researchers at any university or institute in the state were eligible to apply.