In a groundbreaking step forward to advance global collaboration in the fight against cancer, two of the world’s preeminent academic and research institutions — NYU Langone Medical Center and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology — formally announced a $9 million gift from philanthropists Laura and Isaac Perlmut-ter that will fund two major, joint research endeavors with potentially far-reaching impact in advancing cancer research. The joint program is positioned to attract additional, world-class support from institutions and individuals who are dedicated to eradicating cancer through focused and efficient research.
The first $3 million of the grant will finance six cancer-focused research projects that will be conducted by teams spearheaded by co-investigators from both NYU Langone and the Technion. The remaining $6 million will be used to establish a state-of-the-art research facility on Technion’s campus in Israel that will support these and other research projects— and which will have a principal focus on the emerging field of cancer metabolomics.
NYU Langone is a world-renowned leader in the investigation and treatment of cancer. The Technion is one of Israel’s leading academic and research centers and a top-ranked science and technology global research university.
“NYU Langone and the Technion have a shared, longstanding commitment to ad-vancing cancer research,” said Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, senior vice president and vice dean for science at NYU Langone, chief science officer at NYU School of Medicine, and a principal architect of the NYU Langone-Technion partnership. “We are now at a great moment in our institutions’ illustrious histories, a point from which we can jointly leverage the talent and creativity of our researchers toward accelerating breakthroughs. The foresight and the generosity of the Perlmutters, particularly at this time of financial challenge in funding for basic research, will have tremendous impact.”
“Bringing together the unique expertise of researchers from both NYU and the Technion will hopefully enable us to overcome some of the most difficult challeng-es in treating cancer patients,” said Technion Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciech-anover, MD, D.Sc., the 2004 Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry, and Distinguished Research Professor and head of the David and Janet Polak Cancer and Vascular Biology Research Center at the Technion Faculty of Medicine.
Internationally Renowned Researchers to Lead the Charge
The latest gift from the Perlmutters coincides with two new appointments at NYU Langone and the Technion that will be integral to the partnership. Renowned can-cer biologist Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, an expert in the field of cell signal trans-duction, recently joined the NYU Langone faculty as director of the Perlmutter Can-cer Center, and Eyal Gottlieb, PhD, a world leader in cancer metabolism, has been recruited to lead the new research facility at the Technion funded by the Perlmut-ter gift – and spearhead joint efforts in cancer metabolomics.
Dr. Neel will work closely with Prof. Ciechanover to lead the collaborative cancer research effort between the two institutions.
In addition, Dr. Neel will oversee at NYU Langone the building of world-class trans-lational programs in immunotherapy, cancer genetics/targeted therapies and epi-genetics, imaging, as well as expanded programs in clinical care, community out-reach and supportive oncology. Prior to joining NYU Langone, Dr. Neel served as Director of the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Cancer Center, a posi-tion he held since 2007.
Dr. Gottlieb currently serves as Director of the Cancer Metabolism Research Unit at the Cancer Research UK, Beatson Institute in Glasgow, Scotland. His work princi-pally focuses on cancer metabolism and metabolomics, combining analytical chem-istry with basic cancer research to explore metabolic adaptations and vulnerabili-ties of cancer and with it, new potential clinical approaches for cancer treatment.
Champions in the Fight against Cancer
The gift to foster the NYU Langone-Technion partnership continues the efforts of the Perlmutters to champion projects in the fight against cancer. In January 2014, they made an extraordinary gift in excess of $50 million to advance cancer re-search and treatment at NYU Langone. As part of that gift, NYU Langone renamed the NYU Cancer Institute – a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center – the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone. The Perlmutters both serve as members of the Board of Trustees at NYU Langone.
The latest gift also recognizes the Perlmutters’ commitment to wed Israel’s strengths as a global leader in research and technological innovation with other institutions and endeavors. They note that Israeli institutions like the Technion spearhead many of the world’s top advances in medicine, science and technology with a proven record in the development of effective cancer treatments – and that it was important to them to further these efforts through partnerships like the newly established one with NYU Langone.
“Ike and I have long sought for ways to link the state of the art scientific and re-search advances being made in Israel with our deep commitment to NYU Langone Medical Center,” said Ms. Perlmutter in announcing the new gift. “The partnership between the Technion and NYU Langone allows us to launch a focused cancer re-search and treatment approach. We are confident that this collaborative effort, which avoids duplication of research initiatives and creates efficiencies among marquee donors and researchers, will lead to dramatic results in the fight against this terrible disease.”
Cancer Metabolomics – A Roadmap to Breakthroughs in Diagnosis and Treatment
Cancer metabolomics will be the principal focus of the research lab that will be es-tablished at the Technion with the Perlmutter gift. Metabolomics is the comprehen-sive study of chemical processes in cells such as the breaking down of sugars and fats. These processes are both affected by, and can influence, a variety of human diseases including cancer. Because of the significant differences in the chemical processes that occur in cancer cells in comparison to normal healthy cells, metabo-lomics is becoming ever more important in cancer research. Developing a com-prehensive understanding of these chemical processes through metabolomics is critical both for the early detection and diagnosis of cancer as well as for develop-ing innovative treatments.
Novel imaging approaches, early detection blood tests and new targeted drugs to fight cancer would all be facilitated with a deep and comprehensive understanding of cancer metabolomics. These types of studies integrate biology, chemistry, math-ematics and computer science, making it an ideal focal point for collaboration be-tween a science and medical institution like NYU Langone and a technological and academic powerhouse like the Technion.
First Phase of Project Launched
Collaborative efforts between NYU Langone and the Technion are already under-way. Under the auspices of the initial $3 million grant, a request for proposals (RFP) for cancer-focused projects was recently disseminated among key research-ers at both NYU Langone and Technion. A major stipulation in the RFP is that all submitted projects have co-principal investigators representing both institutions. The RFP request follows a highly successful two-day joint workshop, held in New York City in fall 2014, at which many researchers from both NYU Langone and Technion presented updates on their work and learned of ways in which they could collaborate.
Approximately six research projects will be selected with each receiving a two-year, $500,000 grant —$250,000 to fund research at each site. Funding for selected projects will commence in late spring 2015.