Winter 2019-2020 External Newsletter

Dear Friends,

I’m very happy to share the second quarterly external newsletter of the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine (EIPM) at Weill Cornell Medicine, and provide you with an update on our work to advance the science of precision medicine and to reach more patients with lifesaving treatments and therapies.

The work of the EIPM is rapidly expanding beyond cancer and into fields like neurologic and metabolic diseases. We are creating a Molecular Aging Initiative, using advanced genomics in dermatology, improving stroke research and care, and deploying Artificial Intelligence to optimize embryo selection for IVF. Regardless of the complexity of the research, we never lose sight of the ultimate goal of improving outcomes for patients like Ronda Kotelchuck (left).

I look forward to using this newsletter to introduce you to our team, share their peer-reviewed publications, and profile patients benefitting from this work. I encourage you to share this newsletter with your friends and family members interested in science, health and medicine. I also invite you to follow us on Twitter, Facebookand Instagram for regular updates on our work.

News and publications

Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Weill Cornell Medicine recently announced debt-free education for medical students (right) with a demonstrated financial need. This remarkable news will enable talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to receive a world-class education and graduate without crushing debt. This important development will also benefit our research because it insures access to a pipeline of students with a rich diversity of backgrounds who can help us think in new ways about pressing medical challenges and topics that need our attention and focus.

The EIPM’s 2nd Annual Precision Medicine Research Symposium: A Paradigm Shift in Patient Care! (left) showcased the remarkable talent of our Members and collaborations with colleagues from Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University in Ithaca, and Cornell Tech. Over 300 participants at the Symposium heard from more than 30 speakers on a wide-range of topics.

The EIPM has added depth to our team by hiring outstanding new investigators this year, including our Clinical Director Cora N. Sternberg, M.D., Associate Director for Precision Immunology Laura Santambrogio, M.D., Ph.D., world renowned cancer immunotherapy expert Lorenzo Galluzzi, Ph.D.and our colleague Laura Martin, Ph.D. was appointed Ex Vivo Models Director.

A team of investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine, led by EIPM Member Nasser Altorki, M.D. (right), recently received a prestigious Cancer Moonshot grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Immuno-Oncology Translational Network to explore the mechanisms that allow slow-growing lung cancer lesions to progress into aggressive malignancies, and to identify new therapeutic strategies to intercept the transition. Other EIPM Members collaborating on this grant with Nasser and myself include Drs. Vivek Mittal, Niroshana Anandasabapathy, and Karla Ballman. Two additional WCM investigators were also PIs on this project: Dr. Timothy McGraw, Professor of Biochemistry; and Dr. Alain Borczuk, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and a Pathologist at NewYork-Presbyterian.

EIPM Member Betsy Ross, M.D., Ph.D. (front row center, left) and colleagues discovered a genetic cause of the mysterious ‘mosaic’ disorder. The gene mutation underlies a puzzling disorder featuring skin, brain and other abnormalities. The mutation in this disorder occurs after conception in just one cell in a developing embryo; the affected cell goes on to seed only some of the mature cells in the body, in only a small set of organs and tissues. Such disorders are called “mosaic” disorders because of their patchy, mosaic-like manifestations and the fact that the underlying mutation is present in some tissues but not others.

The EIPM deepened our scientific partnerships with European collaborators by joining the EurOPDX Consortium to create a multidisciplinary network of academic researchers that include oncologists, pathologists, biostatisticians, bioinformaticians and others around the common goal of harnessing clinically relevant models of cancer, in particular “patient derived tumor xenografts.”

EIPM Member Iman Hajirasouliha, Ph.D. (right) and colleagues recently published, “PhISCS—A Combinatorial Approach for Sub-perfect Tumor Phylogeny Reconstruction via Integrative use of Single Cell and Bulk Sequencing,” in Genome Research that explored how recent technological advances in single cell sequencing provide high resolution data for the study of intra-tumor heterogeneity and tumor evolution.

News media
In September, CBS News produced “Researchers Growing Miniature Human Brains In Search For Pediatric Brain Tumor Treatment,” featuring EIPM Member Howard A. Fine, M.D., and Danielle Bulaon who explained our work with organoids and our custom-made high throughput drug screening robot.

Giving back
We are investing in young people in a number of important ways, from mentoring New York City high school students from the World Science Academy, to providing meaningful internships, and collaborating with medical students like David Kolin who worked with me on a research project, “Prediction of Venous Thromboembolism Based on Clinical and Genetic Factors,” that earned First Place in WCM’s recent Medical Student Research Day. All of these efforts are worthy of our time and energy to motivate and inspire future leaders in science and medicine.

Olivier Elemento, Ph.D.

Thank you for your interest in the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. I look forward to keeping you updated on our work through this new quarterly newsletter, and I encourage you to follow & like us on social media.



Olivier Element, Ph.D.
EIPM Director

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