A New Generation of Scientists | The New York Community Trust
February 12, 2018   |   By The New York Community Trust
A New Generation of Scientists

“Debate Flaring Over Grants for Research” read the headline of a recent article in the New York Times.  The issue was increased support for young scientists by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—which translates into less money for seasoned researchers.

NIH grants are crucial to scientists who want to work in academia because university budgets can’t cover the cost of most projects, and the grants are a major stepping stone for new researchers. Deciding the proper balance of funding between new and veteran scientists is beyond our ken, but the results of a recent survey of scientists who have received grants from The Trust are interesting.

The Francis Florio Fund is one of a number of funds in The Trust set up for scientific research. Mr. Florio, who owned real estate in Brooklyn and Queens, lost a good friend to a blood disease. In his will, he set up a fund to support research in blood diseases. Since 1974, we have been carrying out his intent. Indeed, we made one of the first private grants for AIDS research from the Florio Fund, a blood disease that didn’t exist when Mr. Florio wrote his will. More recently, grants have been awarded to young researchers to help train the next generation of scientists in a wide range of blood diseases.

In the summer of 2008 we sent a survey to 11 blood disease researchers who were funded for two years of research through the Florio Fund from 1996 to 2003. Of the ten respondents, all reported that their Trust-funded research provided a critical foundation for their current work, and cited us for launching their careers and allowing them to take on riskier projects that are difficult to fund.  Nine researchers had their NYCT-funded research published in peer-reviewed journals. Since they completed their Trust-funded research, eight have gotten NIH or other federal grants, for a combined total of more than $20.5 million. All ten have since had a number of articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and some have presented their research at national and international conferences and universities. These researchers have received total of 16 awards, including: the NIH MERIT Award, the Damon Runyon/Eli Lilly Translational Research Award, the Irma T. Hirschl Career Scientist Award, the Irene Diamond Professorship in Immunology, the Howard Temin Award from the National Cancer Institute, the Searle Scholars Award, the Keck Young Scholars Award (2), the Kirkland Scholar Award, the Dubois Award-American College of Rheumatology 2009, the Burroughs Welcome New Initiatives in Malaria Research Award, the Burroughs Wellcome Investigator in Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases Award, the Kimmel Young Investigator, a fellowship with the American Heart and American Cancer Societies, and Research Chair of the Brain Tumor Society.

Here is some of what the respondents wrote:

“It is an excellent award and very important for career development.”

“Starts young faculty members in their careers.”

“Support during a critical juncture.”

“It helps explore high-risk projects that may be otherwise underfunded.”

“Important for the community, [as it] gives young people the means to do experiments and provides [a] confidence boost.”

“Allows for survival and time for growth.”

“Enormous benefit to help junior investigators establish credentials, generates data, and be published.”

“Provides money when funding is scarce.”


Where they are now:

NYCT Research Cycle, 1996 – 1998

Dr. Leif Bergsagel
Physician and Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Current research: studying the molecular genetics of multiple myeloma

Dr. Yongwon Choi
Professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Current research: autoimmunity, bone metabolism, osteoimmunology

Dr. Todd Evans
Professor and Vice Chair of Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College
Current research: stem cells and organogenesis, using zebrafish and mouse and human ES cell systems; cardinogenesis, hematopoiesis, liver development and regeneration

NYCT Research Cycle, 1998 – 2000

Dr. Anne Davidson
Investigator, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
Current research: pathogenesis and treatment of SLE

Dr. Yan Luo
Principal Investigator/Lab Head, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (Singapore)
Current research: cell cycle control, cancer-metabolism connection, glucose signaling

Dr. Jacob Rand
Director of Hematology, Advanced Coagulation and Protein Separation Laboratories, Montefiore Medical Center
Current Research: investigating the mechanism(s) for thrombosis in an autoimmune condition known as Antiphospholipid Syndrome

Dr. Milton Werner
President and CEO, Inhibikase Therapeutics
Current research: leads a company developing a new strategy for treating bacterial and viral infectious disease using a single agent

NYCT Research Cycle, 2001 – 2003

Dr. David Armond Fidock
Associate Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and
Immunology and Medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases) and Graduate Director of Microbiology, Columbia University
Current research: investigations into mechanisms and genetic determinants of anti-malarial drug resistance and also focusing on fatty acid metabolism in malaria parasites

Dr. Madhav Dhodapkar
Professor of Medicine, Yale University
Current research: cancer immunology and host defense

Dr. Nina Papavasiliou
Associate Professor/Head of Lab, Rockefeller University
Current research: antibody diversification and the humoral immune response; innate antiviral responses; trypanosome antigenic variation through coat switching

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