Neuroscientists at Rockefeller University in New York will be making breakthroughs in a brand new institute, according to a recent announcement from the university and the Kavli Foundation. The new Kavli Neural Systems Institute (Kavli NSI) will be located at Rockefeller University, thanks in part to a $20 million endowment supported equally by Kavli and Rockefeller.Read More
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Researchers at Columbia University recently conducted a study aiming to identify an Alzheimer’s gene in African-Americans. The results were published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the study was funded by NIH research grants. African-Americans with the ABCA7 gene have almost twice the amount of risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. According to a Columbia University news article, the gene is involved in producing cholesterol and lipids, and researchers believe that lipid metabolism may be a key pathway in Alzheimer’s disease in African-Americans, more so than it may be in white people.
A $20 million gift from Philip and Cheryl Milstein to the Columbia University Medical Center was announced recently. The donation will be used as part of an effort to rejuvenate the medical campus with construction of the Medical & Graduate Education Building on Haven Street between West 171st and West 172nd Streets. Administrators at Columbia University Medical Center said the building will include “innovative classroom and study spaces that will incorporate state-of-the-art information technology while facilitating collaborative, team-based learning.” The new building’s function will be the training of students in the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the biomedical science departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. (Read our earlier blog on this new construction project at CUMC here.)
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Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center cell engineering researchers and their clinician colleagues have been in the news recently for a successful experimental cell therapy. Called targeted immunotherapy, a patient's T cells are genetically altered in the lab, then reintroduced with the directive to target and kill cancer cells. The treatment was carried out on a group of adults who all suffered from a rapidly progressing form of leukemia that had not responded to chemotherapy. All five went into remission after the novel cell treatment, and three have stayed that way for a number of months. Results of the ongoing clinical trial appeared in the March 20 online edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, along with an article in the New York Times.
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Dr. Thomas Jessell is a developmental neurobiologist at Columbia University Medical Center and the latest recipient of the Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience, which includes a $100,000 award. In the Jessell Lab in the Hammer Health Sciences Building, researchers study the vertebrate central nervous system to understand how neurons become encoded at the embryonic level, particularly in the spinal cord. The Scolnick Prize singles out Jessell's work for identifying signaling molecules and transcriptional code that establish a linkage between functional circuitry and motor behavior. Also a member of Columbia's Motor Neuron Center, which is dedicated to the study of motor neuron diseases like ALS, Dr. Jessell is a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and part of the larger Columbia Neuroscience interdisciplinary research community. He will travel to Boston in April to accept the prize and deliver a lecture (see image at right). The Scolnick Prize is given out by the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. According to McGovern chairman Robert Desimone, from a recent CUMC press release:
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Of the eleven scientists just announced as winners of the new Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize, four of them have their labs within a block or two of each other in Manhattan: two at Rockefeller University, one at Weill Cornell Medical College, and one at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The prize, given to recognize past achievement in research aimed at curing disease and extending human life, comes with $3M to allow each of those researchers the freedom and flexibility to pursue even more groundbreaking work in the future. The founding sponsors of the prize are tech entrepreneurs Sergey Brin (Google) and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Priscilla Chan, Art Levinson (Apple), and Yuri Milner (venture capitalist). The 11 winners this year will serve on the board to choose 5 winners each in subsequent years.
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With this winter's epic flu invasion maxing out emergency room space and leaving pharmacies without enough flu vaccine, influenza research is a hot topic in the news. Inquiring minds want to know: when will we have the tools to put this mutating foe out of commission once and for all? One very interesting approach to the problem of outsmarting the flu virus involves disrupting its timing by altering a critical protein it needs to exit the cell. At Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, microbiologist and virologist Benjamin R. tenOever recently published an article on his lab research into the molecular basis of virus pathogenicity in the journal Cell Reports. He was also interviewed by NPR just last week for their shots health news program, where he described the carefully-orchestrated maneuvering of the flu virus both into and out of the host cell by likening it to a bank robbery. If one part of the plan doesn't go off like clockwork, the gig is up.
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Neurobiology research has a long and storied history at Columbia University and its Medical School in New York, dating back to the groundbreaking work of American neurologist Harry Grundfest 60 years ago. 30 years ago Columbia became one of the first universities to bring together diverse, cross-disciplinary researchers in neighboring labs to study behavior at the cellular, molecular, and systems level. By 2004, when Columbia celebrated its 250th anniversary, university president Lee Bollinger (right) announced the formation of a Mind Brain Behavior Initiative to more productively bring scientists into an even more integrated research effort across not only the two existing New York City campuses, but with an anchor (and crossroads) at the new CU Manhattanville campus then in the active planning stages.
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Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City has just celebrated the opening of its Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine in Harlem, with no fewer than 6 full floors (180,000sf) dedicated to laboratory research. The 2 buildings that make up the research facilities and the residential/clinical tower have been under construction for four years, and when we last reported on their progress, the opening had been projected into Spring of 2013. Clearly they've made up some time and are eager to be fully operational as soon as possible. In fact, in a news release, officials said that they had originally expected it to take 4-5 years from the opening to a point where they were fully staffed (with new recruits), but now they've shortened that time to 18-24 months.