April 1, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Inaugural Recipients of NYFIRST Medical School Grants

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Inaugural Recipients...


Columbia University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and University of Rochester Recruit Exceptional Life Sciences Researchers Focused on Finding New Ways to Diagnose and Treat Medical Conditions


NYFIRST Awards Provide Capital Support to Upgrade and Outfit Their Laboratories


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the inaugural grant recipients from the New York Fund for Innovation in Research and Scientific Talent, a $15 million medical school capital funding program to encourage recruitment and retention of exceptional life sciences researchers focused on translational research by supporting the establishment or upgrading of their laboratories. Translational research builds on basic scientific research to find new ways to diagnose and treat medical conditions. This year's recipients include Columbia University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, both in New York City, and the University of Rochester in the Finger Lakes. Each institution has recruited a top life science researcher whose lab will benefit from the NYFIRST award.


"Life sciences is a critical and growing industry in New York State, and each of these institutions are reflective of the phenomenal talent, research and applied knowledge that have thrived here," Governor Cuomo said. "I congratulate the recipients of the NYFIRST medical school grants and look forward to seeing them further bolster the budding life sciences industry in the Empire State."


"These grants as part of the NYFIRST Awards are providing the resources needed to support the addition of workers and expansion of life science research," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The capital funding awarded as part of the program will allow the facilities to improve their laboratories and continue to lead in cutting-edge research and development to treat medical conditions and save lives."


Each of these institutions is bringing top-notch translational research talent to New York from prominent research institutions across the country.


  • Columbia University has recruited Jordan Orange, MD, PhD, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Orange, who will serve as chair of the Department of Pediatrics, is a highly regarded clinician scientist whose research has led to five patent applications. He applies advanced imaging techniques to understand the biology of genetic immunodeficiencies. One additional researcher from Baylor, Dr. Emily Mace, will join Dr. Orange at Columbia.
  • The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has recruited Julius C Hedden, III, PhD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston. Dr. Hedden's research focuses on applying innovative imaging techniques to age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.  His laboratory at Mount Sinai will be part of the school's state-of-the-art Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute.
  • The University of Rochester has recruited Paula Vertino, PhD, a research scientist from Emory University in Atlanta recognized for her work on the role of epigenetics in cancer development, to serve as Director of Translational Research at the Wilmot Cancer Institute. She will be responsible for accelerating the development of laboratory discoveries into technologies, diagnostics and cancer treatments. Three highly accomplished research scientists from Stanford University, The Wistar Institute, and the University of Utah will accompany Dr. Vertino to Rochester. 


NYFIRST makes a maximum grant of $1 million available to eligible institutional applicants to modernize, renovate and upgrade laboratory facilities to attract world-class scientists to medical schools in New York State. Program grant awards are made through a competitive grant solicitation until funds are fully committed. Grantees are required to provide $2 in matching funds for every $1 of NYFIRST program assistance.


Scientific talent recruited or retained must demonstrate a history of translational research and be actively pursuing research on an innovative solution for an unmet clinical need. The researcher is also required to demonstrate a clear path to commercialization with the potential for significant life sciences economic development benefits in New York State, such as increased patent applications and patentable discoveries; increased recruitment/retention of medical school faculty focused on translational research; or an increase in the number of life sciences jobs created or retained.


NYFIRST grant funding is to be used for capital expenditures, including, but not limited to: costs relating to the design, acquisition, construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of laboratory space; the purchase of equipment; and other capital expenses.


Applications and guidelines for the 2019 program are now available on the ESD website and can be accessed at: https://esd.ny.gov/ny-first-program.


Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "NYFIRST leverages and enhances the state's unparalleled academic life sciences research assets, making New York State and its medical schools even more attractive to world-renowned researchers and scientists. We look forward to seeing this program turn groundbreaking research into commercial and economic opportunities in the Empire State."   


Dr. Lee Goldman, Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and Chief Executive, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for establishing the NYFIRST grant program. We are delighted to be among the first recipients of this award.  Other states are working to attract investigators away from New York, but NYFIRST gives us an advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent - scientists who not only do great research, but who also bring in federal grants, file patents, start new companies, and create jobs.  We look forward to future rounds and hope that going forward this program will be robustly funded."


Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Mount Sinai Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs, said, "This generous investment by New York State made it possible for Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to recruit Trey Hedden, PhD from Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA to New York City.  Dr. Hedden, a world leader in the use of advanced brain imaging to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, will play an essential role in guiding our multidisciplinary research team in the search for new treatments for these devastating illnesses.  We look forward to partnering with NYS in an effort to help NY become the epicenter for the biosciences."


Mark B. Taubman, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center and dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, said, "Translational science is essential for moving laboratory discoveries into new technologies and treatments for patients, and we thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for supporting this work through NYFIRST. This grant has allowed us to bring accomplished scientist and Buffalo native Paula Vertino, Ph.D., back to upstate New York and to attract three additional researchers here from across the country. Not only will this investment in science yield new jobs, it will also bring new insights that will accelerate the progress against cancer."


Senator Brian Benjamin said, "I am thrilled that Columbia University has been included as an inaugural recipient of the New York Fund for Innovation in Research and Scientific Talent. This grant will allow Columbia to attract and retain the best and the brightest to their already world-class life science program, and to continue to enrich the district I represent and New York state."


Senator Michael Razenhofer said, "Western New York is home to cutting edge research in our universities and medical institutions.  I was proud to support the creation of the NYFIRST grant program and am very pleased to congratulate the University of Rochester in securing one."


Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said, "The life sciences industry is a critically important sector of the new economy and I want to congratulate these institutions on a job well done. Recruiting these leaders in their respective fields will further our medical schools' and research institutions' ability to diagnose and treat serious medical conditions.  This is precisely why we created and funded NYFIRST."


Assembly Member Lentol said, "I comment Governor Cuomo on these grant allocations.  Supporting medical research in New York State establishes a path toward treatments for our families; brings the highest quality physicians and researchers to our state and advances New York's biomedical and technology economies."


Assemblymember Harry Bronson said, "Recruiting and retaining life sciences researchers to the University of Rochester is a crucial step towards making the new advances and breakthroughs that are necessary to continue moving the Finger Lakes forward. I applaud Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in the Legislature for their commitment to attracting world-class talent to New York State and for investing in the technological and human capital necessary to eradicate the most severe threats to the health of our families."


Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, "The life sciences provide opportunities for greater discovery in medicine that needs support and precise investment.  The NYSFIRST program is the right program to inspire and invest in research and equipment to lead to tomorrow's discoveries"


Assemblymember Dan Quart said, "The study of the life sciences, from ecology to immunology, is imperative to not only understanding the world around us, but to improving the overall human experience. The NYFIRST program is an investment in New York's future, allowing our state to attract and retain top-level researchers in the life sciences."


Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright said, "Thank you Governor Cuomo for your efforts to ensure that New York State recruits and maintains the best talent for our medical schools.  Congratulations to the initial recipients:  Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University and The University of Rochester. Since 2017, I strongly advocated for the New York Fund for Innovation and Research and Scientific Talent (NY FIRST) program. This program provides a $15 Million State investment that would be privately matched at a 2:1 ratio by New York State's 16 medical schools. This can result in a total substantial public/private investment of dollars. The NY First program will therefore support existing and future health initiatives with positive economic impact in New York State and also advance drug discovery, accelerate commercialization and bolster the state's bioscience economy. I look forward in future years to initiatives that similarly establish opportunities for CUNY and SUNY medical schools to build on their research contributions to our State's well-being,"


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 sciences 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 including state capital grants to support the development of wet-lab and innovation space, operating support and investment capital for early stage life sciences companies that leverages an additional match of at least $100 million from private sector.


The life sciences 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