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CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS: In blow to health care’s innovation economy, state cancels funding for stem cell research

MAYA KAUFMAN  

May 5, 2021

The state is planning to dissolve a program funding stem cell research, a move that scientists warn will deal a blow to New York’s health and science startup economy.

Lawmakers eliminated the New York State Stem Cell Science program, or NYSTEM, as part of the budget approved last month. The budget bill halts new NYSTEM funding and schedules the program to terminate in 2025, once existing contracts expire.

NYSTEM launched in 2007 and has since devoted an estimated $490 million in funding to stem cell research. Last year the program opened applications for an additional $50 million in grants—enough for about 70 awards—but never gave out the money, researchers said.

Researchers often use stem cells, which have the power to develop into almost any kind of cell in the body, to better understand diseases and how to treat them. Findings can lead to the creation of drugs or other health care innovations.

NYSTEM-funded research has spawned multiple startups, including BlueRock Therapeutics, which formed in 2016 to expand on stem cell research by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pharmaceutical company Bayer bought the company for $600 million in 2019, in a deal that valued BlueRock at about $1 billion.

Researchers working on NYSTEM-funded projects have also used their grants to pivot to studying Covid-19 during the pandemic.

Weill Cornell Medicine researcher Todd Evans, who was using stem cells to study heart disease, has since pivoted to examining Covid-19’s effect on the heart. He is also using stem cells to test whether drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can be used to combat Covid-19.

“Without NYSTEM, this work would not have gotten done,” said Jonathan Teyan, chief operating officer at the Associated Medical Schools of New York, a consortium of the state’s 17 public and private medical schools.

The state Department of Health declined to answer questions about the decision to eliminate NYSTEM, instead referring them to the state budget office.

“The expectation is that this research continues to advance within academic and private research communities rather than the Department of Health, which is focused on its core mission of delivering direct services and achieving positive health outcomes for all New Yorkers,” Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state Division of the Budget, said in a statement.

But Evans and Teyan said NYSTEM often funded experimental research that other institutions, like the National Institutes of Health, rarely do. Both said the program’s elimination leaves a funding gap that federal grants or philanthropy may not fill, especially given how expensive stem cell research can be.

“NYSTEM allowed us to be pretty creative,” Evans said.

The state appears to have instead shifted its focus to the life sciences, which often entails commercializing scientific research. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $650 million life sciences initiative in 2016. More recently, a Partnership Fund for New York City report named the life science industry as key to the city’s economic recovery.

Teyan said New York would be better off following in the footsteps of states like California and Massachusetts, which have found success investing in the entire research pipeline, from the basics to the later stages, aimed at turning those findings into new companies and drugs. “This really should be part of the conversation about building back our economy,” he said.

https://www.crainsnewyork.com/health-care/blow-health-cares-innovation-economy-state-cancels-funding-stem-cell-research 

AMSNY APPLAUDS STATE FOR FULL FUNDING OF DIVERSITY IN MEDICINE PROGRAMS, INCREASED FUNDING FOR THE DIVERSITY IN MEDICINE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) applauds Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for funding AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine programs in the FY2O22 budget at last year’s level of $1.244M and increasing scholarships for students under-represented in medicine to $550,000

“AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine programs are crucial to our effort to increase the representation of BIPOC doctors in New York, especially as a lack of diversity in medicine persists across the state,” said Jo Wiederhorn, CEO of AMSNY. Black and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of New York’s population, but only 13% of the state’s physician workforce.”

“This lack of representation has implications for medical care. Research shows that patients who have doctors from similar racial or ethnic backgrounds have better health outcomes. Additionally, physicians from underrepresented minority groups are more likely to practice primary care and practice in low-income and underserved areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the dire need to address health disparities and our programs have a nearly 30-year track record of doing just that,” said Wiederhorn. “AMSNY Diversity in Medicine programs, funded by the NYS Department of Health, have produced hundreds of doctors who are from underserved communities and who then practice in those same communities.” 

AMSNY’s state-funded Diversity in Medicine Programs have enabled 600 students from ethnic/racial backgrounds underrepresented in medicine (and/or from economically or educationally underserved areas) to become doctors. The programs include the 30-year-old, one-year post-baccalaureate program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, and three post-baccalaureate/master’s programs at New York Medical College, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University School, and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

AMSNY, with financial support from the New York State Legislature, launched the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship program in 2017.  The scholarships, which are available to students who have graduated from one of AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine Programs, are pegged to tuition at SUNY’s medical schools. In the past, 10 recipients were selected; in FY2022 the scholarships will support 11 students. The cost of medical school tuition is among the biggest barriers to entry for underrepresented in medicine students.

The new budget also includes:

  • Full funding restoration for the Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program (ECRIP) at $3.445M. ECRIP provides Center awards to New York State teaching hospitals in order to make these institutions more competitive for federal funding. 
  • Full funding restoration for the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (NY SCIRP) at $8.5M. NY SCIRP has supported neurological spinal cord injury scientific research projects from leading New York State researchers to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
  • $20M re-appropriated to the New York Fund for Innovation in Research and Scientific Talent Program (NYFIRST). The NY FIRST medical school grant program provides capital funding to recruit and retain exceptional life science researchers focused on translational research by supporting the establishment or upgrading of the researchers’ laboratories. The funds in this program are matched 2:1 by the medical schools.

NY Daily News Opinion: Spend a little on diversifying NYS doctors, reap big health rewards

By AKYA MYRIE

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | MAR 30, 2021 AT 5:00 AM

As I finish my final year of medical school, I’m in a race against time.

Growing up in Brooklyn as the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, I saw people that looked like me suffer from higher rates of asthma, diabetes and other chronic illnesses more than their white counterparts.

New Yorkers have always had a gap in health and healthcare based on race and ethnicity. In the past year, COVID-19 has widened those gaps. People of color, like me, have experienced the highest death rates from this pandemic.

That is why I feel a sense of urgency to start helping patients. New York State needs to feel the same urgency — it is more important than ever to double down on investments in diversifying New York’s physician workforce. This is a proven way to help our communities stay healthy.

Research shows that patients are more likely to visit, and follow instructions of, doctors with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. Anecdotal evidence shows this trend applies to vaccinations, too.


Research shows that patients are more likely to visit, and follow instructions of, doctors with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. (Shutterstock)

In New York state, 32% of our population is Black or Hispanic, yet only 13% of our doctors represent those communities. Physicians over 65 are retiring, creating a need for doctors from a range of backgrounds to take their places. These shortages will be felt most acutely in underserved areas.

Physicians of racial or ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in medicine are more likely to work in underserved areas. I plan to return to my Brooklyn community to serve those who, I believe, count on people like me — people who look like them, sound like them, understand their culture and community. It is the kind of care that my brother, who has profound developmental disabilities, received. With his care, I saw firsthand the impact and importance of diversity in medicine.

Despite earning my Bachelors of Science at Stony Brook University and dreaming of becoming a doctor, I faced adversity. Luckily, a state-funded Diversity in Medicine program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences at the University of Buffalo, run by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), was there to help.

Thanks to this rigorous program, which guarantees medical school admission upon graduation, I was prepared academically and emotionally for medical school, and to become a doctor. I was even inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, the highest achievement in medical school. This is a testament to the successful foundation laid by the Diversity in Medicine program.

For four consecutive years, I have received the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship from AMSNY, funded by the state legislature. The scholarship helps students like me, for whom the cost of medical school seems like an insurmountable challenge. It helped me focus on being the best medical professional possible without the burden of medical school debt.

Thanks to these diversity programs, I am on the verge of achieving my goal of becoming a urologic surgeon. I recently matched into residency at the Cleveland Clinic. I want others to have similar opportunities; our diverse residents need it.

Despite some lingering uncertainties about the state budget due to the pandemic, any proposed reductions to the diversity in medicine programs should be rejected. There is a need for full restoration of both the program to increase diversity in medicine and the scholarships to make these programs whole. They are tiny budget items, about $1.25 million and $500,000, respectively. Is it really worth dialing back the progress we are making in diversifying the physician workforce for what amounts to an infinitesimal fraction of the budget shortfall?

If New York fails to increase the number of underrepresented physicians entering the workforce in the next few years, we will face greater costs in health outcomes in the state’s fast-growing population of people of color.

I urge the state to address this looming crisis and help turn the corner on COVID. New York needs to invest in diversifying our physician workforce. I benefited from this investment. My future patients will, too.

Myrie, a Brooklyn resident, is completing her medical degree at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-diversity-in-medicine-20210330-awhmg4ouafbbvnwuuzizuwu5ky-story.html

The Hill: COVID proves clinical trials must proactively recruit people of color

 

BY JO WIEDERHORN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR —  03/08/21 02:31 PM EST
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

In the year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent death of more than 500,000 Americans, researchers around the world have raced to develop vaccines at an unprecedented pace. But the quest to stop the pandemic in its tracks has collided with a long-standing problem: the lack of diversity in clinical trials. This issue must be addressed and the new federal administration can help. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Black Americans are 1.1 times as likely as white Americans to contract COVID-19, 2.9 times as likely to end up in the hospital and nearly twice as likely to die from it. Yet the communities hardest hit by illnesses like COVID-19 are also those grossly underrepresented in clinical trials for cures and therapeutics.

In 2019, the Food & Drug Administration approved 11 new cancer drugs; only four percent of the participants enrolled in those clinical trials were Black. A disproportionate underrepresentation, since Black Americans account for 13.4 percent of the U.S. population and have the highest death rate for most cancers. This example is hardly unusual: over a 10-year period, less than five percent of participants in pivotal trials — late-stage studies used to win regulatory approval — were African American.

As for COVID-19 research, the pharma companies conducting the trials did make efforts to increase diversity but African American representation in trials was much lower than their proportion of patients with COVID-19. Diversity remains an issue the entire medical sector must address if we are to make progress.

The reasons certain groups are underrepresented are myriad. A shameful history of unethical medical practices like the Tuskegee study has led many Black Americans to distrust the medical community. That is compounded by present day racism and implicit bias in healthcare; for example, studies have shown that some doctors believe Black people feel less pain than their white counterparts. 

Clinical trials may unintentionally exclude potential participants because they require travel to centers that are not easily accessible geographically, or may be only open during hours that would require participants to take time off work. Some sites may not be staffed with bilingual staff, interpreters, or have ethics board-approved non-English study materials. The lack of effort to address barriers to participation among people of color results in studies typically including very few Black and Latinx participants, whom research shows suffer from higher rates of chronic diseases and pre-existing conditions.  

But work is being done to change that.

Mount Sinai’s Dr. Lynne Richardson, professor of Emergency Medicine and her colleague, Dr. Carol Horowitz, from the Institute for Health Equity Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been advocating for a course correction in research, raising awareness among medical professionals and in underrepresented communities about the need for diversity in research and applying those very principles to their work. 

Richardson was part of a community advisory board in New York’s Harlem neighborhood that regularly used input from African American community members, faith leaders and patients to guide their research on gene differences that increased the risk of kidney failure among people of African ancestry. The input gleaned helped researchers better understand the community, build trust, and successfully recruit and retain a large, diverse cohort. 

At Columbia University, Lawrence S. Honig, director of the New York State-funded Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease and deputy director  of the National Institutes of Health-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, is working to eliminate barriers to participation in both observational studies and clinical drug trials.  

Honig attributes some successes in this area to robust efforts — including a multicultural staff with Spanish speaking coordinators and research assistants; creating study materials, including approved informed consent forms, in both Spanish and English; conducting regular educational and informational presentations in the community about disease, treatment and ongoing research; being flexible regarding scheduling appointments and providing adequate compensation and transportation fees for participants. 

Methods used by Richardson and Honig are among those recommended to researchers by the FDA in “Enhancing the Diversity of Clinical Trial Populations — Eligibility Criteria, Enrollment Practices, and Trial Designs,” which provides guidance on how researchers can broaden eligibility criteria and increase enrollment of underrepresented populations in clinical trials.

Clinical trials and the people who volunteer to participate in them are essential to help develop safe and effective vaccines and cures. So what can the new Biden Administration do? They can push to ensure health agencies like the FDA and the NIH prioritize, promote and support diversity in clinical trials.  

More diversity in clinical trials — more diversity across all of medicine — will serve to improve health equity and the health of our entire nation.

Jo Wiederhorn is president of Associated Medical Schools of New York, a nonprofit that represents New York’s 17 medical schools.

https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/542077-covid-proves-clinical-trials-must-proactively-recruit-people-of-color 

The Buffalo News: Another Voice: Preserve program that helps produce minority doctors

Covid-19 shined a spotlight on health disparities, with increased hospitalizations and death rates among Black and Latinx patients, including here in Buffalo. However, we have a powerful tool to address health disparities: increased diversity among doctors with the help of pipeline programs and scholarship.

Increasing diversity among doctors is important because patients are more likely to visit and follow the instructions of doctors with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. This has been proven in multiple studies, including a 2018 study from Stanford that found that Black men who were randomly placed to be seen by Black doctors for a free health care screening sought continued preventative care following that visit. Despite the potential for improved outcomes, there are too few Black doctors to treat patients.

Here in New York State, 34% of our population is Black or Hispanic, yet only 13% of our practicing doctors represent those communities. Our diverse population needs more diverse doctors. However, students from underrepresented backgrounds often face barriers. Key to addressing those barriers are pipeline programs and scholarships for aspiring doctors, such as those run by the Associated Medical Schools of New York and funded by the New York State Department of Health.

To date, more than 500 students have gone on to be doctors thanks to AMSNY’s post-baccalaureate program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biological Sciences at the University of Buffalo. During the year-long post-bac program, students receive mentoring, advising and a tailored curriculum to prepare for medical school. Fully paid tuition, plus a stipend, allows students to focus on school without the distraction of financial pressure – often for the first time. When students go on to medical school – 95% of them – AMSNY’s state-funded scholarship further reduces financial barriers for top students each year.

Alumni from AMSNY’s program here in Buffalo have gone on to be pediatricians, emergency room doctors, neurosurgeons and more.

Unfortunately, AMSNY’s programs are at risk of being cut because of Covid-19 budget shortfalls at a time when Covid-19 has shown the world why we need to immediately address health disparities.

New York State needs to move forward in addressing health care disparities, not backwards. It’s up to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to make a difference in the health of New Yorkers by investing in diversity in medicine.

David A. Milling, M.D., is senior associate dean for student and academic affairs and associate professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

https://buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice-preserve-program-that-helps-produce-minority-doctors/article_9b0b1ea6-7ad7-11eb-9238-23b28f439880.html 

Syracuse.com: Now more than ever, it is critical to support diversity in medicine programs (Commentary)

 

 

In the U.S., only 2 percent of physicians are Black women. As a medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University, I am working to become one and change that statistic.

Born and raised in Syracuse, I have wanted to become a doctor from a very young age. But it was later as a teen that I found my passion for addressing health equity. I was volunteering at a federally qualified health care center in a medically underserved area of Syracuse and I began to understand the health care disparities that affected my community members.

Health disparities among historically marginalized communities are well documented, and COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on them, with increased hospitalizations and death rates among Black and Latinx patients. And while health disparities are complex, there is one relatively simple way to begin mitigating them—increase the number of doctors from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine.

Increasing diversity among doctors is an important tool to address disparities because patients are more likely to visit and follow the instructions of doctors with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. I saw this firsthand at health clinics while volunteering. Doctors who shared a background with their patients were able to better understand and alleviate medical mistrust, such as the vaccine hesitancy we’re witnessing today.

The evidence is not just anecdotal— a 2018 study from Stanford found that Black men who were randomly placed to be seen by Black doctors (rather than non-Black doctors) for a free health care screening sought continued preventative care following that visit. Another recent study found the mortality rate for Black babies is cut dramatically when Black doctors care for them after birth. Despite the potential for improved outcomes, there are too few Black doctors to treat patients.

Here in New York State, 34% of our population is Black or Hispanic, yet only 13% of our practicing doctors represent those communities. Our diverse population needs more diverse doctors, however, students from underrepresented backgrounds often face barriers on our journeys to medical school.

Unlike many of our peers in medical school, we often don’t have family or friends who are doctors and could help us navigate our educational path. My mother worked hard to support three kids while widowed. She prioritized our education, but she was not in a position to help us navigate admissions processes. Counseling offices try to dissuade us from applying if our grades are borderline or our standardized test scores aren’t quite high enough, and we often don’t have access to other supports.

Students from underrepresented backgrounds are also more likely to face financial barriers and to have to work during college, which impacts grades and test scores. I worked three jobs at one point to pay my way through college and would leave exams knowing I could have done better if I didn’t have to work a 12-hour shift the day before.

Luckily, here in New York, we have programs designed to give students like me opportunities. After applying to medical school, I received conditional acceptance to Upstate, provided I successfully completed a post-baccalaureate program offered by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) and funded by the NYS Department of Health. It was an incredibly empowering educational experience. For the first time, I was surrounded by aspiring doctors who looked like me and had backgrounds like mine. And, I was also able to focus on school full time, without worrying about finances.

After completing AMSNY’s post-baccalaureate program, I had the opportunity to apply for their Diversity in Medicine scholarship—designed to address financial barriers for students from underrepresented backgrounds—which I am proud to have received for two years in a row.

Thanks to the Diversity in Medicine program and scholarship, I am thriving in medical school, studying for my board exams while acting as an advocate on campus, organizing conversations around racial equity in health care.

Unfortunately, AMSNY’s incredibly effective programs are at risk of being cut because of the Covid-19 budget shortfalls. This comes at a time when Covid-19 has shown the world why we need to immediately address health disparities. Without AMSNY’s Diversity in Medicine programs and scholarships, there will be fewer students like me— with the lived experiences and a passion to address these disparities head-on—who make it to medical school.

In order to go where I am needed most and make a difference, I’ve committed to practicing in a medically underserved area of New York state when I’m done with my training. I am asking Gov. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to commit to underserved communities, too, by diversifying New York State’s doctors and making a difference in the health of New Yorkers.

https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/2021/03/now-more-than-ever-it-is-critical-to-support-diversity-in-medicine-programs-commentary.html

 

 

Testimony of Jonathan Teyan, Chief Operating Officer, AMSNY at Budget Hearing on February 23, 2021

Testimony of: 

Jonathan Teyan, Chief Operating Officer 
Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) 

At a Joint Budget Hearing of 

The New York State Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation,  Commerce and Industry 
and 
The New York State Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small  Business 

February 23, 2021 

9:30AM 

Virtual Public Hearing

Good afternoon, Chairs Weinstein, Krueger, Bronson and Kaplan and other distinguished members of  the New York State Legislature. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the Executive proposed  budget for state fiscal year 2022. 

My name is Jonathan Teyan, Chief Operating Officer of the Associated Medical Schools of New York  (AMSNY). AMSNY is the consortium of the 17 public and private medical schools in New York  State. AMSNY works in partnership with its members to advance biomedical research, diversity in  medical school and the physician workforce and high quality and cost-efficient care. 

Background 

Biomedical research and the intellectual property it generates – which can result in significant licensing  deals with the biopharmaceutical sector and the launch of startup companies – is an important  economic driver. The backbone of basic biomedical research is National Institutes of Health (NIH)  funding, which supports research into the causes of, and treatments for, a wide range of diseases,  including cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,  cardiovascular disease and many more that both impair quality of life and cause significant economic  burden. According to a 2018 U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis, disease burden in the U.S. results  in an annual 9.4 percent reduction in gross domestic product. Moreover, as the COVID-19 pandemic  has so clearly demonstrated, acute public health crises have the capacity to cause significant and  sustained economic damage. 

New York State is the third-largest recipient of NIH funding, with $3.2 billion awarded to New York  academic institutions and private sector companies in 2020. Of that total, 68% was awarded to  scientists at New York’s 17 medical schools. These funds support research laboratories that effectively  function as small businesses within the medical schools, with a Principal Investigator at its head, and  typically 8-10 post-doctoral scientists, technicians and support staff. These small businesses can scale  quite significantly as the research advances. As an example, a scientist at Columbia University Irving  Medical Center, Dr. Rudolph Leibel, has grown his lab to more than 100 employees and well in excess  of $50 million in NIH funding. Importantly, that growth would not have occurred in New York State were  it not for a relatively modest $750,000 investment the State made in 2002, via the now-defunct  NYSTAR Faculty Development Program. At that time, Dr. Leibel was prepared to accept an offer from a  competing institution in Maryland; if not for the New York State grant, Dr. Leibel’s research – and the  NIH grants and employees that it entails – would have relocated outside the state. 

Despite our high concentration of medical schools, other academic research institutions and  biopharmaceutical companies, New York State’s investments in its life sciences sector have for many  years failed to keep pace with other states. As a result, those states making significant investments  have more advanced startup ecosystems and have competitive advantages in their efforts to recruit  and retain world-class scientific talent.  

In November 2020, California voters approved an additional $5.5 billion investment in the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), building on an initial $3 billion that has made California a  global leader in stem cell science. In recent strategic planning, CIRM has recently shifted its focus to  translation research – research that advances basic science towards the marketplace and the bedside. In addition, California has long supported its life sciences industry, providing seed and other funding to  startup companies launching from its academic institutions. As a result, California has the most robust  life sciences sector in the U.S., accruing $8.7 billion in venture capital investment, with 3,249 life  sciences companies employing nearly 300,000 people at an average wage of $114,000 in 2017. 

Similarly, in November 2019, Texas voters authorized a second $3 billion investment in the Cancer  Prevention Research Initiative of Texas (CPRIT). Texas research institutions drew upon the initial $3  billion investment in CPRIT in 2007 to recruit out-of-state scientists, spending more than $40 million in  the first several years to recruit important researchers, many at New York State universities. One of  those recruits, the immunotherapy scientist James Allison, was lured from Memorial Sloan Kettering  Cancer Center to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with a $10 million package. Dr. Allison  subsequently went on to win the prestigious Lasker Prize and a Nobel Prize in 2018. More importantly,  Dr. Allison’s research has proven remarkably effective in fighting advanced cancers and has the  potential to contribute significantly to next generation cancer treatments. 

Many other states have followed similar paths: Massachusetts created its $1.5 billion Massachusetts  Life Sciences Center to drive basic research and grow its bioscience sector; Connecticut invested $2.5  billion to grow its research ecosystem. Even states with relatively few major academic research  institutions have made outsized investments that, on a per capita basis, are competitive with Texas,  California and Massachusetts.  

It should also be noted that our ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has depended in  significant measure on the ability of our life sciences infrastructure to quickly pivot to understanding the  SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, developing treatments and validating those treatments through clinical trials.  New York State has been pivotal in these efforts, in part because we were the epicenter of the crisis in  early 2020 and in part because of our concentration of academic research institutions and  biopharmaceutical companies. As COVID-19 has demonstrated, responding quickly to these crises is  not only a matter of public health, but an important economic consideration. Maintaining New York’s  ability to rapidly respond to public health emergencies depends on the strength and resiliency of our life  sciences infrastructure and biomedical research workforce.  

New York Fund for Innovation in Research & Scientific Talent (NYFIRST) 

New York State’s initial investment of $20 million in the NYFIRST program was a central part of its Life  Sciences Initiative in 2018 and signaled the State’s commitment to an increasingly important part of  New York State’s innovation economy. The NYFIRST program has already improved New York State’s  competitive position in recruiting and retaining world-class scientific talent, an essential component of  the state’s growing bioscience sector. But the important work of strengthening New York’s life sciences workforce has only just begun; the State must continue to ensure our academic institutions and private  sector have the scientific talent that drives new discoveries, technological innovation, entrepreneurship,  product development and new company formation.  

Return on Investment 

NYFIRST leverages additional investments from academic institutions through a required 2:1 match. In  the first cycle of NYFIRST funding, the medical schools exceeded the required match significantly,  generating $6.50 in capital expenditures and additional grant funding for every State dollar invested. 

Employment 

NYFIRST is a proven driver of life sciences employment. These are high wage jobs (averaging $85,000  per year, exceeding the statewide average private sector wage) at institutions with deep historical roots  in New York State. Given their complex infrastructures, their partnerships with other health care entities  and their local communities, academic medical centers are stable employers over the long-term, and will continue to be an important component of the state economy for the foreseeable future, meaning  that, in contrast to other economic development initiatives, there is little risk that state investments in  NYFIRST will flow out of state and fail to provide in-state jobs. Given the requirements of the program,  each NYFIRST recruitment or retention award will similarly generate significant and immediate  employment. In its first cycle of funding, NYFIRST has enabled the recruitment of 13 scientists and  support staff from outside New York State, with 40 new jobs in the first year and a projected 101 new  jobs over the first three years. 

NYFIRST Cycle 1 

The first cycle of NYFIRST funding, which was awarded in early 2019, demonstrates the program’s  significant return on investment, with rapid employment growth, an additional $6.50 in economic activity  for every State dollar invested and 36 patents currently held or pending. 

Projected Employment 

  • Number of employees recruited to New York from outside state: 13 
  • Net new jobs (direct and indirect) created by NYFIRST recruitment in year 1: 43
  • Net new jobs (direct and indirect) created by NYFIRST recruitment in year 2: 27
  • Net new jobs (direct and indirect) created by NYFIRST recruitment in year 3: 31
  • Net new jobs (direct and indirect) created by NYFIRST recruitment in years 1-3: 101 
  • Average salary of all jobs created by NYFIRST recruitment in years 1-3: $65,853

Additional Grant Funding 

  • Total additional grant funding (from National Institutes of Health and other federal and  philanthropic sources) brought to New York State by principal recruits in years 1-3: An  estimated $16.5 million 

Institutional Matching Funds 

  • Total institutional matching funds in years 1-3: An estimated $17.5 million 

Return on Investment 

  • Every dollar invested by New York State in NYFIRST results in an additional $6.50 in  economic activity through institutional capital investments and additional grant funding brought  to New York State 

Intellectual Property 

  • Number of patents held and/or pending by NYFIRST recruits: 10 
  • Number of patents held and/or pending by additional recruits: 26 
  • Total number of patents held and/or pending as a result of NYFIRST awards: 36 

The Future of NYFIRST 

The second cycle of NYFIRST closed in mid-2019 and a third in mid-January 2020. While awards have  yet to be announced by ESD, it is clear that these first funding cycles have demonstrated the potential  of NYFIRST to attract and retain scientific talent. It is also clear that the competition for scientists has  not abated; indeed, this competition has expanded as governments, academic institutions and  companies around the world have recognized the value of the bioscience sector and the importance of  the human capital that drives the sector’s intellectual property creation and entrepreneurship. 

Budget Request 

AMSNY requests that the Legislature and the Governor reappropriate unspent funds from the 2018 $20  million appropriation and ensure that Empire State Development issues a new Request for Applications  as soon as possible. 

New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM) 

New York State has demonstrated the value of biomedical research investments. The Empire Stem  Cell Science (NYSTEM) program – which at $600 million is modest relative to the states with which it is  most competitive for scientific talent and NIH funding – has led to the development of important health  breakthroughs and private sector investment.

  • In 2019, Oscine Therapeutics launched based on NYSTEM-funded research by Steven  Goldman, co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Center for  Translational Neuromedicine. Oscine is the largest-ever investment in a URMC startup  company, with VC funding from Sana Biotechnology – a new firm backed by Arch Venture  Partners, Flagship Pioneering and F-Prime Capital Partners.  
  • BlueRock Therapeutics was launched in 2016 based on NYSTEM-funded research at Memorial  Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. BlueRock secured $225 million in venture capital investment  from Bayer and Versant Ventures. In 2019, BlueRock received a $1 million investment from  Empire State Development to build a neuroscience hub in New York City. Bayer recently  announced it is acquiring BlueRock for approximately $600 million. 
  • In 2019, Luxa Biotechnology – a joint venture between the Korean company Yuyang DNU and  the Neural Sem Cell Institute – was launched to develop new treatments for macular  degeneration based on NYSTEM-funded research by Sally Temple, co-founder of the Neural  Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer, NY. 

NYSTEM issued a Request for Applications with a June 2020 deadline. The Executive budget proposal  to eliminate the program would mean that that funding cycle – which the Department of Health had  estimated would support 70 projects at a total cost of $50 million over three years – will never be  implemented. Many stem cell scientists across New York State prepared applications for this funding  cycle, some of them forgoing other grant opportunities. It is clear that eliminating the NYSTEM program  will impair scientific advances, harm New York’s standing as a leader in stem cell science and,  particularly in light of California’s $5.5 billion renewal of its regenerative medicine program, will diminish  our scientific workforce, as stem cell researchers seek funding opportunities outside New York. 

Budget Request 

The Executive budget proposes to eliminate the NYSTEM program in its entirety, with no new  additional funding after April 1, 2021. We urge the Legislature to reject the Article VII language  eliminating the program and to ensure sufficient funding to support existing projects and to fund the  June 2020 RFA. 

Closing 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for your continued support for biomedical research and New York State’s 17 medical schools. I welcome any questions you may have. 

Respectfully submitted, 

Jonathan Teyan 

Chief Operating Officer 

 

AMSNY Member Institutions 

  • Albany Medical College 
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University  
  • CUNY School of Medicine 
  • Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons 
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center 
  • Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, SUNY
  • New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine 
  • New York Medical College 
  • New York University Grossman School of Medicine 

. New York University Long Island School of Medicine 

  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center 
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University 
  • Stony Brook University School of Medicine 
  • Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine 
  • University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry 
  • Weill Cornell Medicine 
  • Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

 

WBAI: Interview with AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Program Alumnus Dr. Rafael Hernandez

On February 18, 2021, WBAI’s Driving Forces hosts Jeff Simmons and Celeste Katz Marston caught up with AMSNY Diversity in Medicine Program alumnus Dr. Rafael Hernandez, and spoke about his first year out of medical school amid COVID19.
Dr. Hernandez, a Class of 2020 graduate of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University entered the physician workforce working on the frontlines battling COVID19. Listen to the interview
here!

 

 

In Case You Missed It: Innovation in the Time of COVID-19

On Thursday, February 11, the Associated Medical School of New York (AMSNY) hosted a webinar examining the role of the state’s biomedical research community in the ongoing response to the COVID-19 crisis. Click to watch the full video on YouTube. View or download slideshow presentations from our expert speakers below.
 
Presentations:

Liise-anne Pirofski, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine “Pathogenesis and therapy of COVID-19” 

Todd Evans, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine “Discover of Drugs for COVID-19”

Stephen Thomas, MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University “Leveraging Clinical Research Capabilities to Support COVID-19 Vaccine Development”

Diana Hernandez, PhD, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health “COVID-19 Disparities: Proximal and Long-term Impacts on the Social Determinants of Health”