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June 2016 Newsletter | Guest Column by Anne Moore, M.D. 

Our Own “Moonshot” at Cancer 

Investing in research in New York  

If you know about The New York Community Trust, you probably are aware of our work in areas such as education, the arts, and job training. You might not know we also invest more than $1 million a year in medical research.  

The money is targeted to research done in New York, and to early-career researchers. Why support those in the formative stages of their careers? Because they might come up with out-of-the-box ideas. And, unfortunately, first-time applicants have only an 8 percent chance of getting federal funding. Of course, compared to the federal government, we spend a tiny amount on research. For example, this year the National Institutes of Health expects to direct $680 million to innovative cancer research as part of what President Obama calls “America’s new moonshot.”  

So what can a community foundation accomplish with a relatively small amount? To answer that, consider a fund set up in 1974 by businessman Francis Florio to “support research in the field of blood diseases.”  

Thanks to him, The Trust made one of the first private grants for AIDS research—back in the early 1980s, when most funders would barely mention the disease. 

Later, a grant bearing the Florio name funded efforts of an epidemiologist who became one of the world’s leading vaccine advocates. And an oncologist supported by the Florio Fund wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book exploring the origins of cancer. Another scientist contributed to Nobel Prize-winning work studying dendritic cells, the sentinels of the body’s immune system. 

We’re constantly searching for ways to make our research money have the greatest impact (see below). And whether you care about treating cancer, or helping the homeless, or educating preschoolers, or making a difference in another area, we hope you’ll join us.

Dr. Anne Moore, a member of The Trust’s board, is the medical director of the Weill Cornell Breast Center and a professor of clinical medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.   

“We’re working on high risk/reward projects that are hard to fund through the usual government grants.” — Samuel Sidi, cancer researcher 

Samuel Sidi works in his lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The Trust is funding his work.  

Seeking Cancer Cures 

How can scientists find effective anti-cancer drugs? If tumors resist radiation therapy, what can work? 

The Trust supports research to help find answers. We’re giving $600,000 over the next three years to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to support cancer research done by Samuel Sidi, an assistant professor of medicine, hematology, and medical oncology. 

Our grant is funding Sidi to be a recipient of a Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators, considered one of most competitive and prestigious awards in the field of cancer research. We made this grant by combining money left to us by four donors interested in medical research, Carol and Charles Spaeth and Helen and Harry O’Connor.   

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