Newswise — Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) announced the establishment of a new graduate school of biomedical sciences. It will offer a novel doctoral program that will train basic laboratory scientists to work in research areas directly applicable to human disease and, in particular, to cancer.
"Revolutionary advances in molecular biology and genetics, coupled with new technologies, give us every reason to believe that in the next decade or two we will be able to greatly improve diagnosis and treatment of disease," said MSKCC President Harold Varmus, "and we need a specially trained cadre of young scientists to help make that quantum leap into 21st Century medicine. The program we've designed, along with the environment and resources we have here will provide unparalleled opportunities to gifted and creative students who are inspired to attack clinical problems through basic and translational research," said Varmus. "Right now, there aren't enough basic scientists who understand the biological challenges faced by clinicians," he said.
The school will be named the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in recognition of Gerstner's exemplary commitment to MSKCC, including his service as vice chairman of its Boards of Overseers and Managers, chairman of the Board of Managers of Sloan-Kettering Institute, and now as the chairman of the school's Board of Trustees. His lead gift has already generated more than $30 million in philanthropic support for the new school.
Announcing the gift, Varmus said, "Lou Gerstner has consistently proven himself to be a remarkable strategist, a valuable colleague, and an extraordinary institutional leader. The establishment of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School will position MSKCC as a premier training ground in cancer biology," said Varmus.
"I am very excited about this program and look forward to supporting its success," said Gerstner. "Today's breakthroughs in cancer biology are paving the way to vastly improved methods of detection and care for people with cancer—and I am delighted to know that the talented men and women trained at the new school will carry MSKCC's proven commitment to scientific creativity and excellence with them as they assume key positions, both at MSKCC and around the world," he said.
Beginning in July 2006, 10-12 graduate students will enroll in this intensive program leading to a PhD in Cancer Biology. By the time it reaches steady-state operation in 2012, the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. School of Biomedical Sciences will have approximately 60 students.
"A major goal of the new graduate school will be to narrow the gap between basic cancer research and clinical applications," said Thomas Kelly, MD, PhD, who is the Director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute and the Provost of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. School of Biomedical Sciences. "The faculty has developed a highly innovative core curriculum that emphasizes fundamental concepts in cellular and molecular biology in the context of cancer research and also provides significant exposure to clinical issues. In addition, MSKCC will offer students an exceptionally broad range of research opportunities, in a highly interactive and collaborative scientific environment," said Kelly.
The faculty will be comprised of a group of MSKCC scientists who are leaders in their fields, in areas such as cancer biology and genetics, genomic integrity, cell signaling and regulation, structural biology, immunology, natural products synthesis, developmental biology, computational biology, experimental therapeutics, experimental pathology, and imaging and radiation sciences. Approximately half of the founding faculty will be physician-scientists who are nationally recognized for their clinical expertise and research excellence; students will have an opportunity to spend time in MSKCC patient care units to deepen their understanding of cancer in all its forms.
The curriculum will include an integrated and intensive one-year course covering all aspects of cancer biology, designed to ground students in current scientific understanding in a progression leading from the genes and proteins to the complexities of human physiology and pathophysiology. Course work will be followed by thesis research and other related academic activities.
Students will be able to take advantage of a new state-of-the-art research building with open floor labs dedicated to such areas as chemical biology, immunology, human oncology and pathogenesis, and molecular pharmacology, as well as core facilities that include bioinformatics, mass spectrometry, a tumor procurement bank providing access to thousands of tumor samples, and a high throughput facility for rapid screening of organic compounds to identify inhibitors of biological reactions. They will also have access to the resources of the MSKCC Experimental Therapeutics Center, an infrastructure for drug discovery and development.
The new graduate school was awarded degree-granting status by the New York State Board of Regents in September 2004. Applications for admission in the fall of 2006 will be accepted starting in July 2005. Kenneth J. Marians, PhD, program chairman of the Molecular Biology Program at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, has been named Dean of the new graduate school.