May 24, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Groundbreaking $47 Million Empire Discovery Institute to Bring Life-Changing Discoveries Out of the Lab and into the Market

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Groundbreaking $47...

Three Major Educational Institutions Collaborate to Commercialize Early Drug Discovery Research & Potentially Life-saving Medicines

Innovative Partnership Will Provide Tools to Translate Early-Stage Discoveries into New Jobs and New Companies


Governor Cuomo today announced the formation of the Empire Discovery Institute, EDI, - a groundbreaking partnership of three premier academic, research and clinical institutions that will leverage academic and industry resources and expertise to accelerate life science research through early-phase drug development. EDI will expedite the pathway toward successful licensing and commercialization of early drug discovery research, creating new revenue, new companies and new jobs, while capitalizing on New York's leadership as a vibrant life science cluster and hub for early-stage discovery.


"New York is home to world-leading institutions producing cutting-edge research, advancements, and breakthroughs in human health," Governor Cuomo said. "The Empire Discovery Institute will harness New York's wealth of academic capital and provide the resources needed to bring life-changing discoveries out of the lab and into the economy, generating new jobs, new companies and new investments in the growing life sciences sector."


The Empire Discovery Institute is a not-for-profit drug discovery and development collaborative formed by the University of Rochester, University at Buffalo, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, each located in Upstate New York. Together, these leading institutions boast a diverse and robust scientific development portfolio concentrated in neuroscience, musculoskeletal research, infectious disease, immunology and oncology. EDI will improve the efficiency of early stage discovery research by bringing to this portfolio the tools and expertise necessary to convert the highest potential research to commercial opportunities and patentable products, enhancing their potential to become life-saving medicines.  


EDI Will Bolster New York's Life Science Economy


EDI will be supported by more than $47 million during its first five years: $35.4 million from the New York State Life Science Initiative and $12 million in in-kind contributions from the three partner institutions. Over the next five years, it is anticipated that EDI will generate several new multimillion-dollar life science companies, new life science patents, and new jobs resulting from the life science companies created out of EDI.


Over the last five years, the University of Rochester, University at Buffalo, and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center have benefitted from a combined $1 billion investment in basic biomedical research by NIH and other government and private funders. EDI will enable conversion of the most promising research into intellectual property that can be developed commercially, stimulating the upstate economy and growing this life science cluster, while also benefitting the three partner institutions.


In the EDI model, academic and industry scientists prioritize and evaluate project strengths and weaknesses that determine whether a project will result in success or termination. This model refocuses time and funding on discovery candidates that are most likely to succeed. The EDI collaboration will increase efficiency, reducing the amount of time and risk in early stage development, while simultaneously reducing research and development costs by facilitating go/no go decisions. De-risking at an early stage will more directly translate pivotal research into patents and ultimately, life-saving medicines, and in turn, encourage the growth of new life science companies in New York. EDI is modeled on a successful partnership of Weill Cornell School of Medicine, Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute and The Rockefeller University called Tri-I TDI, which has been in operation since 2013.   


EDI Facilitates More Rapid Decision Making


EDI will upend key barriers to commercialization of even the most innovative academic research -- lack of resources and drug development expertise, which can block cutting- edge research from continuing on commercial pathways. These problems continue despite the increased dependence of biopharma companies on academic discoveries for new therapeutic candidates. The significant time lag between discovery research and commercialization of new drug candidates is so common that it is known as the "valley of death." By bringing together the expertise - both academic and pharmaceutical - necessary for successful drug development, EDI will overcome this "valley of death" to create an unbroken pathway bringing promising research candidates closer to commercial viability. 


Empire State Development President, CEO, and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The Empire Discovery Institute will streamline New York's efforts to translate our wealth of groundbreaking life science research into viable treatments and remedies - which in turn will catalyze new jobs, new companies, and new investments in this cutting-edge industry."


Dr. Judith Dunn will serve as Chief Executive Officer of EDI.  Dr. Dunn has more than 25 years of international experience in the pharmaceutical industry, most recently as Vice President, Global Head of Clinical Development and Head, Innovation Center at Roche. Dr. Dunn began her career as a discovery scientist in biotech, held positions in both the research and commercial divisions of Pfizer, and led Psychiatry Clinical Development efforts at Sepracor, a specialty pharma company. Dr. Dunn attended Wesleyan University and the University of Rochester, obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in Neurobiology. She was the recipient of a Research Fellowship in Neuropharmacology from the Center for Brain Research at Strong Memorial Hospital, as well as a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Research from Pfizer. Dr. Dunn is also a board member of NewYorkBIO and the Partnership for New York City.


Dr. Judith Dunn, Chief Executive Officer of EDI said, "Empire Discovery Institute offers a rich and exciting opportunity to capitalize on the extensive and often untapped life science research under way in these three world-class institutions.  By bringing these institutions to the table to create EDI, the Governor's Life Science Initiative has brought a transformative approach to drug development in upstate New York that will have a positive impact in years to come."


UB President Satish K. Tripathi said, "From our state-of-the-art new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to our innovative Clinical and Translational Research Center, UB has invested significantly to build upon our strengths in bench-to-bedside research and training. Now, with Governor Cuomo's Life Science Initiative spurring the growth of a world-class life science research sector, we are able to establish this important partnership with Roswell Park and the University of Rochester. The EDI will allow us to leverage UB's established life science infrastructure and our wealth of research expertise to usher drug discoveries from ideas to proof of concept to—ultimately—the marketplace. This will provide life-changing treatments to patients across the world while fueling innovation and economic growth right here in Western New York."


Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center said, "There are so many promising ideas originating from our basic-science teams, and this groundbreaking partnership will accelerate our ability to translate those Roswell Park discoveries into life-saving cancer therapies. The Empire Discovery Institute will shepherd collaboration between researchers and industry experts, overcoming the many barriers that hamper innovation from moving from bench to bedside, and directly benefitting cancer patients."


Mark Taubman, MD, CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center, "Biopharma companies are increasingly dependent upon academic research for the development of new drugs and the institutions in Rochester and Buffalo possess a strong foundation of research and development in critical life science fields. We are deeply grateful for Governor Cuomo's leadership and support for this initiative which will build upon the University of Rochester's rich history of biomedical innovation and leverage partnerships with industry that will enable us to create a vibrant and growing life sciences economy in the region."


New York State's $620 Million Life Science Initiative


In the FY 2018 budget, New York State enacted a $620 million initiative to spur the growth of a world-class life science research cluster in New York, as well as expand the state's ability to commercialize this research and grow the economy.

This multi-faceted initiative includes $100 million to expand the Excelsior Jobs Program Tax Credit to the life sciences industry, $100 million for a life sciences research and development refundable tax credit program, and $320 million in other forms of investment. This includes state capital grants to support the development of wet-lab and innovation space, operating support and investment capital for early stage life science companies that leverages an additional match of at least $100 million from the private sector.


The Life Science sector encompasses the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, life systems technologies, and includes organizations and institutions that devote the majority of their efforts to the various stages of research, development, technology transfer and commercialization. Every day, firms in this sector are developing new medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs that have the potential to save lives, whether through new therapies or the early detection of diseases like autism and cancer. These firms are also making significant advancements in the realms of agriculture and environmental biotechnologies, helping create a cleaner and more sustainable future.

By strengthening incentives, investing in the facilities, and improving access to talent and expertise, New York will significantly increase its share of industry-funded research and development, support the commercialization of existing academic research, and usher in the next generation of advanced technologies. Beyond the advancements in science, this initiative will position New York as a magnet for emerging manufacturing- based enterprises, bolstering regional economies and creating thousands of jobs.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office