In 2005, Susan L. Solomon co-founded The New York Stem Cell Foundation with the mission of accelerating stem cell research to cure major disease. Solomon, an attorney with a previous career in business, started as a health-care advocate in 1992 when her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Following her son’s diagnosis and her mother’s death from cancer in 2004, she sought to find a way to translate medical research more quickly into cures. In conversations with scientists and clinicians, Solomon identified stem cells as the most promising way to address unmet patient needs. In 2006, NYSCF established its own laboratory, which is now one of the largest private stem cell laboratories in the United States, now referred to as The NYSCF Research Institute.
NYSCF channels private philanthropy toward stem cell research. NYSCF has raised nearly $100 million for stem cell research both in its own laboratory and in the major medical institutions around the world that it continues to support.
In March 2006, NYSCF opened the first privately funded human embryonic stem cell (hESC) laboratory in New York. The lab was free from federal restrictions and allowed scientists to conduct all types of stem cell research, including studies that involve embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and somatic cell nuclear transfer.
As of 2014, the NYSCF Research Institute occupies over 6,000 square feet of space, and employs 40 full-time researchers. The NYSCF Research Institute is home to the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array, a proprietary, automated robotic technology that standardized production of induced pluripotent stem cell lines.
NYSCF focuses on disease modeling and the development of cell therapies.
Scientists at the NYSCF Research Institute conduct translational stem cell research in the following disease areas:Alzheimer's disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
Diabetes (type 1, 2, and other types)
NYSCF Researchers Publish on Method to Prevent Inheritance of Mitochondrial Disease in Nature
According to the December 19, 2012 issue of Nature, NYSCF scientists, in collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center researchers, successfully transferred the nuclei between egg cells without detectable adverse effects on the resultant egg cell. The technique represents a way to prevent the inheritance of mitochondrial diseases. Women with a family history of mitochondrial diseases will be able to have children without risk of passing on these diseases. Specifically, the team removed the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell and replaced it with the nucleus of another donor’s egg cell, but, unlike the work of previous groups, the researchers lowered the temperature of the egg, increasing transfer success rate.
NYSCF Researchers Derive Pluripotent Stem Cells from Human Egg Cells, Reported in Nature
Time magazine-cited research led by NYSCF scientists Dieter Egli and Scott Noggle reprogrammed the adult skin cells from Type 1 diabetes patients to the pluripotent state by combining these cells with unfertilized donor eggs, as reported in Nature. The scientists then differentiated the pluripotent cells into other cell types in the body, including insulin-producing beta cells. This is an important advance in the development of patient-specific stem cells that could help in the study of and potentially the treatment for diabetes. If translated into a clinical therapy, the cells generated through this somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) method could replace damaged or diseased cells without rejection by the patient’s immune system.
NYSCF Investigator Derrick Rossi Named to Time’s “People Who Mattered”
In the December 27, 2010 edition of Time magazine, Derrick Rossi, PhD, a NYSCF – Robertston Investigator and an Assistant Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, was named one of 2010’s “People Who Mattered”. Dr. Rossi pioneered a method to reprogram skin cells into stem cells with messenger molecules rather than viral vectors. Clinically significant, this eliminates risk of viral contamination and the related development of cancer.
NYSCF Chief Scientific Officer Kevin Eggan First to Create Neurons from ALS Patients
Kevin Eggan, PhD, of Harvard University, applied induced pluripotent stem cell derivation techniques pioneered by Shinya Yamanaka, MD, to generate the first motor neurons from skin samples of ALS patients. These cells could be used to study the progression of motor neuron disease, which researchers cannot do in an ALS patient. This research was published in Science and cited by Time magazine as the #1 Medical Breakthrough of 2009.
NYSCF supports stem cell research through external grants known as its "Innovator Programs." The NYSCF Innovator Programs are the NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellowship, the NYSCF - Robertson Investigator Program, and the NYSCF - Robertson Prize.
The NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellowship Program has provided support for 50 researchers from institutions worldwide. The Program provides support to postdoctoral researches to help them as they enter the next stage of their careers. NYSCF believes supporting postdoctoral researchers is crucial in creating a trained generation of stem cell scientists. Within the next five years, it will support an additional 30 researchers. The NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellowship Program is supported by Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller.
The Investigator Program builds on the NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellowship Program. NYSCF's intent is to support early career investigators around the world, who often have difficulty obtaining traditional support for their work. The Program provides five years of funding to early career scientists engaged in stem cell research focused on finding cures, supporting them as they establish their own laboratories.
The program encompasses two research areas: neuroscience and stem cell technology. The Stem Cell Investigators engage in the basic biology and the translational potential of stem cells. Eleven early career scientists have joined the Stem Cell Investigator program. NYSCF aims to select Neuroscience Investigators to conduct neuroscience research that seeks to transform the fundamental understanding of the brain. Eight scientists have become Neuroscience Investigators.
The New York Stem Cell Foundation annually honors the achievements of young stem cell researchers with The NYSCF – Robertson Prize, started in 2011. Each recipient receives a cash award as well as a sculpture designed by architect Frank Gehry, winner of the 2009 NYSCF Humanitarian Award.
In 2012, Kazutoshi Takahashi, PhD, Lecturer at Kyoto University, won the NYSCF – Robertson Prize. Dr. Takahashi was the first author on a series of papers with Shinya Yamanaka, PhD, which described, for the first time, reprogramming adult cells into pluripotent stem cells. This work, the derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells, led to Dr. Yamanaka’s 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In 2011, Peter J. Coffey, DPhil, Professor of Cellular Therapy and Visual Sciences at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, was the inaugural recipient of the NYSCF – Robertson Prize. As the Director of the London Project to Cure Blindness, Dr. Coffey has provided his expertise in human embryonic stem cells to develop a treatment to cure Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
Other winners include:
· 2013: Amy Wagers, PhD (Harvard University)
· 2014: Marius Wernig, MD, PhD (Stanford)
Held annually in October at Rockefeller University, The NYSCF hosts the New York Stem Cell Foundation Translational Stem Cell Research Conference in which stem cell scientists and members of the medical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology communities gather. The conference’s topics are arranged by disease area, with separate symposia that address topics related to the stem cell field.
On October 10–11, 2012, NYSCF held its seventh conference, with a record attendance of over 400. Paneled discussions such as Revolutionizing Functional Human Genetics composed the first day, while the second day focused on research breakthroughs organized by disease area. Kazutoshi Takahashi, PhD, the recipient of the 2012 NYSCF – Robertson Prize and first author on a series of papers that led to Shinya Yamanaka’s Nobel prize-winning research on induced pluripotent stem cell derivation, delivered a keynote address.
NYSCF holds regular public outreach panels annually in New York City.
NYSCF founded the Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering (IWISE) to create more gender equity in the sciences. The IWISE working group published recommendations for the field in Cell Stem Cell. IWISE was also highlighted by the Cell Press Podcast in March 2015, in which CEO Susan L. Solomon spoke about some of the actionable steps to promote women in sciences. The initiative generated a report card that assigns institutions a grade based on how equity of their gender practices.
The NYSCF Laboratory developed The NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM, which manufactures standardized induced pluripotent cells that can act as human disease models. The Array, announced at TEDGlobal in 2012 captures the full spectrum of genetic and ethnic diversity within the human population as stem cell lines. Both healthy donors and diseased patients contribute skin and/or blood. Automated robotic technologies and proprietary protocols transform these samples into standardized, high-quality stem cell lines (i.e. induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs), which may thereafter be reprogrammed into other cell types (e.g. heart cells, liver cells, and brain cells). These cells provide a platform by which researchers can study basic biological development and disease progression.
Researchers may anticipate, on a large scale, how people from genetically diverse backgrounds respond to new drugs—in other words, conduct “clinical trials in a dish.” For the first time, potential drug metabolism and toxicity issues are identified in advance of human clinical trials. Additionally, the Array facilitates the customization of drugs and the creation of cell therapies to match a person’s own genetic type, increasing the likelihood of drug success and decreasing the odds of adverse effects.
The Array has enabled NYSCF to partner with organizations such as:
· Stanley Center at the Broad Institute
· The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
· National Institutes of Health Undiagnosed Disease Program
· Beyond Batten Disease FoundationIn December 2012, NYSCF scientists report in Nature a successful technique that could be applied to prevent the inheritance of mitochondrial disease in children
Susan L. Solomon was honored by the Genetics Policy Institute with the Stem Cell Action Leadership award
Susan L. Solomon presented at TEDGlobal in Edinburgh, Scotland
Scott Noggle, PhD, Director of the NYSCF Lab, is named to Crain’s New York’s “40 under 40”
Nature reports major advance in the development of patient-specific stem cells led by NYSCF researchers Dieter Egli, PhD, and Scott Noggle, PhD, in the NYSCF Laboratory
NYSCF awards the Inaugural NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize to Peter J. Coffey, DPhil, for pioneering work with hESCs to treat age-related macular degeneration
NYSCF honors Dorothy Lichtenstein with its Humanitarian Award at its Gala
Derick Rossi, PhD, a NYSCF Investigator, is named to Time magazine’s “People who Mattered” list
The New York Stem Cell Science Program awards NYSCF with a facilities grant
Solomon discusses stem cell research on The Martha Stewart Show
Solomon attends signing of President Obama’s executive order "Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells" at the White House
Ten-time Olympic medalist and diabetes patient Gary Hall, Jr. featured on NYSCF public outreach panel
Solomon discusses New York State’s decision to fund research that includes compensating egg donors
NYSCF honors Frank Gehry with its Humanitarian Award and Joel S. Marcus with its Leadership Award at its Gala
Susan L. Solomon honored with Women of Excellence Award by Governor David Paterson
Time and Science cite NYSCF-funded research as the most significant scientific breakthrough of the year
NYSCF meets with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team to provide input on the administration’s human embryonic stem cell research policies
NYSCF Laboratory more than doubles in size to accommodate research projects
NYSCF serves an advisory role to Governor Eliot Spitzer and Lieutant Governor David Paterson in drafting New York State’s eleven year, $600M stem cell research funding initiative, New York State Stem Cell Science program
NYSCF opens the first privately funded stem cell laboratory in New York
NYSCF awards the first postdoctoral fellowship to Elena Ezhkova, PhD
NYSCF convenes its Inaugural Translational Stem Cell Research Conference at Rockefeller University
NYSCF holds its first Gala for scientists and supporters, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dick Wolf speak
Solomon and Mary Elizabeth Bunzel featured in the November issue of Science and hailed "stem cell pioneers"
NYSCF receives anonymous pledge of $1M to begin its daily operations