At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, we have taken a bold new approach to our pursuit of breakthrough discovery and innovation by forming an academic affiliation with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Designed to pool our expertise in biomedical research and patient care and Rensselaer’s in engineering and invention prototyping, this affiliation will accelerate collaborations that support educational programs, research, and the development of diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health.
With technology playing an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, high competition for research funding, and the pharmaceutical industry investing less in research and development, Mount Sinai and Rensselaer are leveraging complementary strengths to revolutionize biomedical research and accelerate the pace of innovation and entrepreneurship across the health sciences.
Joint Research Center will Advance Groundbreaking Research
In conjunction with Rensselaer, we will develop research programs in neurosciences and neurological diseases, genomics, imaging, orthopedics, cancer, cardiovascular disease, health care analytics, and scientific and clinical targets that capitalize on each institution’s unique, complementary strengths. We will also pursue joint funding for research in precision medicine, drug discovery, stem cell biology, robotics and robotic surgery, novel imaging techniques, cellular engineering, and computational neurobiology.
Mount Sinai’s Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine and Rensselaer’s Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies will serve as hubs for research and development, to be complemented by a dedicated joint research center that is under development. Collaborative research projects will leverage some of the most advanced supercomputing in the world, including Minerva, Mount Sinai’s supercomputer, and Rensselaer’s new IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputing system.
With this capacity, the new center will create unique, transformative technologies that will probe the depths and accelerate the restoration of neurologic function, unleash the regenerative capacity of damaged human tissues, personalize the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular and bone diseases, and invent new tools that revolutionize surgical treatments, promote rehabilitation, and lead to new and personalized therapeutics. Such tools will include the use of nano-microscale devices that will report cellular, tissue/organ, and whole body function in real-time. The new technologies, validated and verified for use in daily clinical practice, will lead to immediate therapeutic responses predicated on the massive data generated through outcomes-based research. In doing so a new workforce will emerge, well versed in a new paradigm at the intersection of medical sciences and engineering, with the skills, training, and practice to serve society and provide economic vitality to the region.
Additional priorities for investigation include areas that the Federal government recognizes as urgent. We will develop novel neuroimaging techniques and neurotechnologies to help physicians better understand and treat neurological disorders, identify shortcomings in imaging, develop diagnostic tools, and improve treatment tools, such as creating a system to help paralyzed people walk and manipulate their environment with the assistance of robotics.
The Mount Sinai Center for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
These projects will be conducted at the new Mount Sinai and Rensselaer Center for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will focus on transitioning basic research into innovative startup projects. It will join Mount Sinai’s Center for Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (cTIE) which is led by Geoffrey Smith, JD, who is also a Professor in the Department of Health Evidence and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The Center will guide students and faculty from both institutions to accelerate research breakthroughs from the laboratory, to patients, and eventually to the marketplace. Collaborative Centers are being developed on both campuses that will provide space and resources for investigators and students from each campus to visit the other campus for on-site collaborative work as well as remote collaboration through sophisticated electronic links.
Cultivating Innovation through Education
Mr. Smith, a former corporate attorney who co-founded Ascent Biomedical Ventures while also developing a program focused on science and economics at Rockefeller University, is ideally suited to these efforts. Under his leadership, cTIE is attracting the best and brightest students from non-traditional areas such as engineering and computer sciences. One of its programs, the QED Project, asks student-led teams to define a problem, invent its technology-based solution, and then build a prototype solution for that problem.
Mr. Smith’s knowledge of teaching innovation and acquiring corporate funding for start-up projects will prove invaluable to the new center. We will develop joint graduate educational programs that present challenges similar to those of the QED Project in multiple areas of translational basis sciences, leveraging the strength of existing doctoral programs at each institution. We will also create faculty seminars, designed to foster a community of researchers from various disciplines with the common interest of better understanding medical innovation.
John H. Morrison, PhD, is Dean of Basic Sciences and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor of Neurosciences. Scott L. Friedman, MD, is Dean for Therapeutic Discovery and Professor of Medicine (Liver Diseases).