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Governor Cuomo Announces $36 Million to Accelerate Development of Stem Cell-Based Disease Cures

January 12, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $36 million has been awarded to three research groups for the development of treatments for some of the most devastating conditions that could be helped with stem cell research. 

“New York is home to some of the brightest researchers in modern medicine, and today we’re helping them push the boundaries of stem cell research,” Governor Cuomo said. “This State is proud to be a leader in the healthcare industry, and with this funding we will continue to develop modern, world-class programs that pave the way for a healthier world for all.”

The new round of funding, administered by New York State Stem Cell Science Program, features the following three awards:

  • $15.7 million to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College for the development of a cure for Sickle-Cell Anemia by enabling the genetic modification of a patient’s own blood stem cells. The funding will help the doctors at Weill Cornell take the necessary steps so that first-in-human clinical trials may begin.
  • $11.9 million is being provided to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute which is working on a project to re-engineer adult stem cells derived from blood to target ovarian cancer. By infusing these re-engineered cells into cancer patients, doctors hope to trigger the patients’ immune systems to develop a continuous source of anti-cancer immune cells that will provide sustained attack against ovarian cancer.
  • $8.8 million has been awarded to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai for its continued development of a process to increase the number of stem cells collected in cord blood collections. Blood stem cell transplantation has proven to be the only potential therapy available for most patients with blood cancers that do not respond to chemotherapy, as well as patients with genetic disorders involving blood cells. To obtain blood stem cells for transplant, doctors use cord blood collections, which contain only limited numbers of stem cells. Mount Sinai researchers have developed a method to increase the number of collected stem cells 35-fold and is looking to move ahead to clinical trials.

All three initiatives have already garnered success in various laboratory settings and researchers, guided by the program and a team of top experts, will be working with the Food and Drug Administration to achieve the final requirements needed before human trials can begin.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “The research being conducted as a result of this funding is vital to ridding the world of diseases that have taken so many of our loved ones far too early. By investing in both cutting-edge research and programs to improve stem cell literacy and education, New York State has quickly become a national leader in this burgeoning scientific domain.”

This funding is the second round of awards designated to support disease-focused, health outcome-based, collaborative research across multiple disciplines. The first round of the “Consortia” awards was announced in March 2013 and is providing nearly $38 million to SUNY Upstate Medical University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Regenerative Research Foundation for projects focusing on stem cell-based cures for Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Age-related Macular Degeneration, respectively.

In addition to the funding committed to these groundbreaking research consortia, the New York State Stem Cell Science Program has awarded nearly $2 million in funding to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Columbia University, and Cornell University to support programs which help foster interest in stem cell-related research among high school students. Each institution invites high school biology teachers to participate in hands-on stem cell research during the summer to increase their understanding of stem cell science and foster an appreciation of the broader context in which this research occurs. Teachers will take these experiences back to their classrooms to begin training and engaging future generations of New York’s scientists. 

Finally, the program has awarded $250,000 to the American Museum of Natural History for programs that build stem cell literacy among diverse adult audiences through on-site and online learning experiences. This initiative capitalizes on the Museum’s experience providing successful adult education programs, as well as its partnership with Khan Academy, to provide online educational content. Scientific expertise in stem cell biology will be provided by the New York Stem Cell Foundation.

About the New York State Stem Cell Science Program
The New York State Stem Cell Science Program is New York State’s multi-million dollar stem cell research funding program, the second largest in the nation. It works under the guidance of the Empire State Stem Cell Board, whose mission is “to foster a strong stem cell research community in New York State and to accelerate the growth of scientific knowledge about stem cell biology and the development of therapies and diagnostic methods under the highest ethical, scientific, and medical standards for the purpose of alleviating disease and improving human health.” Through the New York State Stem Cell Science Program, New York State has invested more than $300 million at 35 New York State institutions for research, infrastructure and education since its inception in 2007.

The Empire State Stem Cell Board was created to advise the New York State Commissioner of Health regarding the New York State Stem Cell Science Program. The Board functions through two standing committees established in the Public Health Law. The Funding Committee oversees the solicitation, review and award of research grants. The Ethics Committee is charged with making recommendations to the Funding Committee with respect to scientific, medical and ethical standards related to stem cell research.

The official press release can be found here.