NYSTEM-Funded Discovery Fuels Research at Mount Sinai Lab and Beyond

Dr. Saghi Ghaffari, MD, PhD 
Professor of Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Saghi Ghaffari received her first NYSTEM (New York Stem Cell Science Program) award in 2008, when she was working with embryonic stem cells to identify factors that might regulate the cells’ pluripotent properties (their ability to develop into any type of specialized cell in the body).

The NYSTEM grant enabled her to identify a specific factor in the cells that establishes pluripotency, contributes to the cells’ longevity, and is important in multiple parts of the body.

“The discovery led to subsequent research which has been funded by NIH, foundations and additional NYSTEM grants, and resulted in important publications,” said Ghaffari. “It has also stimulated related research in many other labs.”

Additionally, the NYSTEM-funded discovery enabled junior researchers from Ghaffari’s lab to publish work that made them competitive, so they could secure their own grants. It’s NYSTEM that makes it possible for these researchers to consider continuing their work in the state, she said.

“NYSTEM funding is crucial for New York State to be competitive,” said Ghaffari. “Without it, the funds coming out of other states like California and Texas make it very difficult to stay in New York and do high profile work and major discoveries in this area.”

Dr. Ghaffari was recently awarded an additional NYSTEM grant, which she said will allow her to bring on additional researchers to her lab for her newest study, in which she is identifying and targeting silent stem cells in leukemia: these are stem cells that are the major source of therapy resistance and relapse and make the disease very difficult to treat.

“Without this kind of funding, we would not be able to continue this line of important work and hire people, and make sure researchers continue to do this important work in science and medicine,” she said.

There is a huge investment and dedication in years of education and research work to produce skilled scientists. Without NYSTEM funds, jobs for these quality people would be reduced and NY state would lose these highly skilled young people to other states.