Genetic Medicine Program at Weill Cornell Receives Major Boost from The Starr Foundation

Aug 7, 2000


The Starr Foundation, which has long supported the research and educational programs of the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and its clinical affiliate NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, has contributed $15 million toward the expansion of Weill Cornell's Program in Genetic Medicine, a key component of the Medical College's Strategic Plan for Research.

The extraordinary gift will enable the Medical College to significantly advance and expand its first-rate programs in genetic medicine and gene therapy by constructing new laboratories and facilities and recruiting leading biomedical researchers in the field.

In honor of The Starr Foundation and Maurice R. Greenberg's long-time support, Weill Cornell will name one of its key buildings—the "D" Building located on York Avenue between 68th and 69th Streets—after the Foundation and Mr. Greenberg.

$15 Million Starr Foundation Gift

The gift—to be paid over three years—includes $9 million to create state-of-the-art laboratories on three floors of the Whitney Pavilion devoted to genetic medicine, $4.3 million to support recruitment of faculty members to the Program in Genetic Medicine, and $1.7 million to enhance the sophisticated gene core facilities and technology necessary for scientists at Weill Cornell and its neighboring institutions to conduct their research.

Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of The Starr Foundation and Chairman of American International Group, said: "Weill Cornell Medical College is one of the nation's great medical schools and research centers. The Starr Foundation is proud to make this vital investment in the Program in Genetic Medicine to advance groundbreaking research into the genetic causes of life-threatening diseases, with the ultimate goal of developing new therapies for treatment."

Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of Cornell University, paid tribute to Mr. Greenberg and the Starr Foundation: "On behalf of Cornell University, I wish to express my deep gratitude to Hank and Corinne Greenberg and The Starr Foundation for their remarkable $15 million gift to Weill Cornell Medical College's Program in Genetic Medicine. This contribution will greatly advance Weill Cornell's Strategic Plan for Research and its mission to attract talented research scientists, enhance core facilities, and construct and renovate research laboratories."

Sanford I. Weill, Chairman of Weill Cornell's Board of Overseers, said: "This extraordinary gift will allow the Medical College to capitalize on its many existing strengths in the area of Genetic Medicine. We are deeply grateful for Hank Greenberg's exemplary leadership and The Starr Foundation's long history of philanthropy toward Weill Cornell."

Dr. Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., The Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, observed: "Hank Greenberg and The Starr Foundation have provided acritical vote of confidence in our Program in Genetic Medicine, for which we are extremely honored and grateful. This gift will allow Cornell to create laboratories for cutting-edge research and recruit a critical mass of tenure-track, basic science faculty in the field of genetic medicine. These researchers will utilize Medical College core facilities that contain specialized high-tech equipment and provide research support expertise. These three crucial elements—faculty, laboratory space, and technology—are interwoven to invest in basic genetic medicine research initiatives with direct implications for patient care."

Weill Cornell's Strategic Plan for Research

The expansion of Weill Cornell's Program in Genetic Medicine is part of the Medical College's overall effort to extend its leadership role in biomedical research. This $316 million Strategic Plan for Research calls for an overall expansion of Weill Cornell's research space by 26 percent and the addition of 30 new faculty members. Moreover, the focus of the Plan is in three critical areas that capitalize on existing strengths at the Medical College: genetic medicine, structural biology, and neuroscience.

The Strategic Plan for Research has already paid dividends in the field of genetic medicine. The new Whitney Pavilion Research Labs have just been officially dedicated; four genetic medicine floors are ready for occupancy. Of the 12 new faculty planned for the Genetic Medicine Program, three stellar researchers have already been recruited: Dr. Craig Basson, Dr. Luis Quadri, and Dr. John Moore. It is expected that five new faculty will be recruited in fiscal year 2001 and the remaining four in 2002. Much of the sophisticated technology required to carry out the research in genetic medicine and gene therapy is also in place, including the new Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Gene Therapy Core Facility, which opened in Fall 1999.

Program in Genetic Medicine

Researchers in Genetic Medicine investigate the genetic factors responsible for major health problems such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and cardiovascular disease and aim to develop treatments using the techniques of gene therapy.

Weill Cornell's Program in Genetic Medicine is led by Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, Bruce Webster Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Institute for Genetic Medicine. Dr. Crystal is a world leader in the field of gene therapy, from the basic development of gene therapy vectors (transfer agents) to the clinical application of gene therapy in treating patients. He was recruited to Weill Cornell in 1993 from the National Institutes of Health, where he was Chief of the Pulmonary Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Dr. Crystal pioneered the development of adenovirus vectors for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and carried out the first human gene therapy studies for this disease.

Maurice R. Greenberg

Mr. Greenberg has been a close friend and supporter of Weill Cornell Medical College and its affiliate, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for many years. Mr. Greenberg is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the Board of Governors of New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, Inc.

The "D" Building, which will be named in honor of The Starr Foundation and Mr. Greenberg, is the site of many Weill Cornell Medical College facilities, including the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Education Center, the Archbold Commons, the Office of Academic Computing, the Griffis Faculty Club, the offices of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program, and laboratories for the departments of Microbiology & Immunology, Physiology, Pharmacology, Gerontology, and Medicine.