From Scholars to Scientists

is assembled one of the most prestigious biomedical communities in the world.

The Scientist Staff
Nov 21, 2004

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan – within a 10-block spanbetween 63rd Street and 73rd Street – is assembled one of the most prestigious biomedical communities in the world. Located here are Weill Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University – with its major clinical partner NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; The Rockefeller University; Sloan-Kettering Institute; and Hospital for Special Surgery – powerhouses of scientific pursuit and discovery. Individually and collectively, they offer a scholarly arena that provides researchers with the resources to search for the most basic of disease processes, extraordinary opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, and an unparalleled intellectual environment where one could spend all day – every day – in seminars that address myriad subjects from bench to bedside.

Within this multi-institutional complex, Weill Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences is dedicated to three interwoven missions: research, education and patient care. "While each of...

A DECADE OF GROWTH

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In just under a decade, and, in particular, in the years since Dean Gotto and Dean David P. Hajjar, Ph.D., assumed leadership of the Medical College and Graduate School, respectively, Weill Cornell's research enterprise has undergone tremendous growth. Anchored by a sweeping Strategic Plan initiated in the mid-nineties – which, in its first phase, created crucial research advancements in the areas of structural biology, genetic medicine and neuroscience – and propelled by major philanthropic support, the Medical College has established a solid foundation for scientific accomplishment. Phase I of the Strategic Plan is enabling Weill Cornell to bring on 30 new research faculty members(25 recruited to date); to create new high-tech research laboratories, increasing dedicated basic-science space at Weill Cornell by more than 25 percent; and to build endowment for new professorships, fellowships, scholarships and research. In addition, a new Office of Technology Transfer was established to facilitate the application of basic research findings to potential clinical and commercial uses.

During this period, Weill Cornell has also realized a significant increase in grants and contracts awarded from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. Today, research funding from both government and private sources for our more than 322 principal investigators totals $154 million – up from $40 million a decade ago. On average, the NIH funds 20 to 25 percent of the grant applications it receives from all institutions; at Weill Cornell, nearly 33 percent of submitted grant applications receive funding.

The Medical College is now well into the second phase of its Strategic Plan, Advancing the Clinical Mission, which – supported by a $750-million capital campaign (about $500 million raised to date) – will provide vital resources in patient care, research and education across six major clinical disciplines, and will make possible the construction of a new ambulatory care and medical education building.

RESEARCH PROGRAMS OF EXCELLENCE

In the laboratories and at the bedside, promising breakthroughs in medicine are being pursued by the scientists and physicians of Weill Cornell. The focus of their efforts lies with age-old diseases but reflects modern-day theories and biomedical approaches. Weill Cornell has developed a number of programs of excellence in research. These include the Institute for Computational Biomedicine, specializing in the development of research technologies that employ mathematical methods, physics and high-speed computing; the new Ansary Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics, which will bring together basic scientists and clinicians to further the promising field of stem-cell research and its applications to the treatment of cardiac disease, cancer, brain disorders, diabetes and other medical challenges; and the Center for Vascular Biology, a paradigm for multidisciplinary collaboration-merging faculty from the hypertension, arteriosclerosis and thrombosis groups.

FROM SCHOLARS TO SCIENTISTS

The Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences (GSMS), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002, offers a carefully designed, research-oriented graduate program spanning the full spectrum of biomedicine. "With its unique integration of two world-class research institutions – Weill Cornell and the Sloan-Kettering Institute – the Graduate School comprises a faculty who are among the world's most renowned biomedical scientists," says Dr. Hajjar.

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Weill Medical College of Cornell University Total Federal and Non-Federal Research Funding.

Since Dr. Hajjar assumed the deanship in 1997, the Graduate School has consistently improved its ranking in the U.S. News &World Report survey of America's Best Graduate Schools. GSMS has also experienced phenomenal growth, with a faculty that now numbers 220 and a student body of 320. Applications to its competitive training programs continue to increase annually from top-rated students around the country, with about 500 applying for 55 slots each year. All students accepted to the Ph.D. degree-granting programs are awarded a full tuition scholarship, a generous graduate student stipend of $26,420 per year and residential housing.

The Graduate School provides Ph.D. training in a number of areas. In addition, GSMS offers a program of study leading to the Master of Science degree in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Services Research. Importantly, the Graduate School has 16 federally funded training grants, including those that focus on vision research, cardiovascular biochemistry and atherosclerosis, and cancer pharmacology.

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Weill Cornell faculty, postdocs, and graduate students take advantage of a new residence, located on nearby Roosevelt Island.

Selected Research Programs of Excellence

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Biochemistry and Structural Biology

• Structure and function of the HIV- envelope protein

Cancer Biology

• New therapy for HER- /neu positive breast cancer

• Modulation of retinoic acid action in renal cancer

Cell and Developmental Biology and Genetics

• Regulation of endothelial cell function in angiogenesis

• A molecular genetic analysis of familial aortic aneurysm

Gene Therapy, Genetic Medicine and Stem Cell Research

• Gene transfer to progenitor and differentiated cells

• Vascular heterogeneity determination by marrow progenitors

HIV Research

• HIV immune reactivity in vivo and in vitro

• A novel vaccine targeting HIV gp sequence

Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis

• Cell cycle and apoptosis in plasma cell tumor genesis

• Macrophage gene expression: Impact of M. tuberculosis

Neuroscience

• Oxidative and excitatory toxicity in neurodegeneration

• Temporal structure of working memory activity

Pharmacology

• Circulatory shock, nitric oxide and tetrahydrobiopterin

• Cardiac dysfunctions caused by histamine release

Physiology, Biophysics and Systems Biology

• Role of tyrosine kinases in G protein signaling

• Structure and function of neurotransmitter transporters

Vascular Biology

• Vascular cell signaling and atherogenesis

• The atherogenic microenvironment

Vision Research

• Sorting of plasma membrane in epithelial cells

The Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program – a historic partnership between Weill Medical College, the Sloan-Kettering Institute and Rockefeller University that is entering its 15th year – has 200 faculty members and a current enrollment of 102 students who can earn their Ph.D. from any of the participating institutions. More recently, additional tri-institutional programs have been established in chemical biology, with a goal of training the next generation of chemists who will play leading roles in deciphering the complexities of biology; and a program in computational biology, which will train scientists to be fluent in both the language of biology and the language of mathematics.

Weill Cornell has also developed two unique collaborations with Cornell University's S.C. Johnson School of Management in Ithaca. Medical students interested in seeking leadership roles in major health organizations, pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms now have the option of earning an M.B.A. in a dual-degree program co-offered with the Medical College and Johnson School. GSMS students can earn a Ph.D.-M.B.A. in a program that is also jointly administered.

Recognizing the enormous contributions postdocs make to Weill Cornell's research enterprise, the Medical College has established an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs to facilitate their work and promote their professional advancement. Throughout Weill Cornell, more than 400 recent Ph.D. and M.D. postdocs are conducting laboratory investigations in nearly all clinical and basic-science departments.

CENTRALIZED CORES

With research equipment and technology becoming increasingly complex and expensive, Weill Cornell has invested in the creation, to date, of 20 core facilities, enabling its scientists to conduct experiments on the cutting edge. From cell screening and flow cytometry to biomedical imaging, gene therapy and X-ray crystallography, these core facilities provide centralized access to state-of-the-art equipment needed by scientists working in many different departments-thereby reducing duplication of resources. Staffed by scientists with specialized expertise in the respective cores, these facilities play a key role in research productivity and are an attractive feature for recruitment.

With its stellar faculty of physicians and scientists, Weill Cornell stands at the forefront of academic medicine and biomedical research. "Intellectually, science is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose," says Barbara Hempstead, M.D, Ph.D., co-chief of hematology/oncology. "You have the opportunity to ask questions that nobody has ever been able to ask before, and a knowledge base and armamentarium of techniques that have never been available. It's an extraordinary privilege to be able to pursue these lines of investigation at Weill Cornell and to have the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists."

Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, (212) 746-5454http://www.med.cornell.edu, http://www.biomedsci.cornell.edu/graduate_school

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