Mount Sinai School of Medicine establishes Stem Cell Institute

05/05/05

Leon D. Black donates $10 million to create The Black Family Stem Cell Institute

Financier Leon D. Black has committed $10 million to Mount Sinai School of Medicine to establish the Black Family Stem Cell Institute. The Institute, which will be directed by Gordon Keller, PhD, Professor of Gene and Cell Medicine, will integrate research in embryonic stem cells, developmental biology, and adult stem cell biology.

"Stem cell research is an emerging and critically important science that has enormous potential to benefit humankind and, as such, is one of Mount Sinai's greatest priorities," says Dennis Charney, MD, Dean of Research. "Dr. Keller and his colleagues have been at the forefront of this field almost since its inception. Mr. Black's generosity will help to build upon and expand their investigations of how stem cells work and speed their efforts to develop practical applications based on laboratory findings."

"Research in stem cell biology holds boundless promise for disorders that plague our society, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer's disease," says Mr. Black. "It is my hope that the new Black Family Stem Cell Institute will be a catalyst to accelerate the pace at which research advances are translated into new treatments and cures."

The Black Family Stem Cell Institute will foster interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty members from numerous departments who are already working in stem cell research. "Stem cells are immature, undifferentiated cells (cells that do not yet have a specialized function) that have the unusual ability to form cells of any tissue," explains Dr. Keller. "This capacity of stem cells to give rise to many different cell types opens the door for developing new approaches for the treatment of a broad spectrum of diseases."

According to Dr. Keller, the Institute's short-term goals involve generating specific populations of various cell types, such as blood, heart, and liver cells, from different types of stem cells. "Researchers will document the capacity of these cells to function in pre-clinical models of human diseases. The long-term goal is to use these findings to develop new therapies for degenerative diseases." Dr. Keller explains that, at the onset, the Stem Cell Institute will focus on building upon Mount Sinai's expertise in hematopoiesis (the formation of new blood cells), cardiovascular, liver and central nervous system research.

The Black Family Stem Cell Institute will recruit six new faculty members, to be called Black Family Scholars, to do more work in stem cell biology at Mount Sinai. The Institute will also host a regular seminar series on stem cell research, called the Black Family Seminar Series. Mr. Black is the founder of the investment managing firms Apollo Advisors, L. P. and Lion Advisors, L. P., and co-founder of Apollo Real Estate Advisors, L. P. From 1977 to 1990, he was associated with Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., where he served variously as managing director, head of the mergers and acquisitions group, and co-head of the corporate finance department. He has served on The Mount Sinai Hospital Board of Trustees since 1994.

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