The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced an affiliation agreement to collaborate on educational programs, research, and development of new diagnostic tools and treatments that promote human health. The alliance was commemorated in a signing ceremony on May 22, 2013.
The institutions launched the initiative to use their expertise—Rensselaer's in engineering and invention prototyping and Mount Sinai's in biomedical research and patient care—to provide synergy in their promotion of human health. Rensselaer and Mount Sinai will develop complementary research programs in neuroscience and neurological diseases, genomics, imaging, orthopaedics, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and scientific and clinical targets that capitalize on each institution's unique strengths. Joint funding in research programs will be sought, including precision medicine, drug discovery, stem cell biology, robotics and robotic surgery, novel imaging techniques, cellular engineering, and computational neurobiology.
"With high competition for funding and with the pharmaceutical industry investing less in research and development, institutions with complementary strengths must partner to revolutionize biomedical research," said Dennis S. Charney, M.D., Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, The Mount Sinai Medical Center. "With both institutions committed to a culture of innovation in research and education, we look forward to working with Rensselaer to help provide the blueprint for 21st century science and health care delivery."
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., Rensselaer President, added, "Combining Mount Sinai's leadership in biomedical research and patient care—with Rensselaer's breakthrough research in biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies, rooted in our leadership in science, engineering, and technological entrepreneurship—we expect this agreement to result in radical innovations in health care. At Rensselaer, we have a very simple motto that is nonetheless breathtaking in its audacity: ‘Why not change the world?' Mount Sinai and Rensselaer are now taking a significant step toward revolutionizing education, research, and practice in the field of medicine—and ultimately, improving human health around the globe."
"Mount Sinai and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are each institutions already on the cutting edge of research and development, but together will change the tools and treatments used to improve our health across the country," said U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY). "I am confident that their work together will enable new discoveries in biomedical sciences. This partnership will create countless opportunities for the next generation of leaders in biomedicine."
Initially, key areas of focus will be genomics, imaging, tissue engineering, and neuroscience. With Mount Sinai's $3 million investment to build the Minerva supercomputer and the Rensselaer high-performance computing center at the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations – featuring a new IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputing system – the two institutions will implement some of the most advanced high-performance supercomputing in the world. This will enable them to quickly and efficiently produce sophisticated computer algorithms that analyze genomic data and develop predictive models of disease, which can better help diagnose and treat patients. Mount Sinai's newly opened Hess Center for Science and Medicine and the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) will serve as hubs for research and development.
"In terms of medicine, the linkage between technological universities and medical schools has never been more urgent," said Jonathan S. Dordick, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Howard Isermann Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer. "The impact of technological breakthroughs in imaging, data acquisition, analytics, and new therapeutics – among others – are rapidly re-shaping medical paradigms and education. We also share a common entrepreneurial spirit."
The institutions also will work together in the development and utilization of novel neuroimaging techniques and neurotechnologies that help better understand and treat neurological disorders. These areas are a national priority, with the White House announcing the launch of the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies)—through which Rensselaer and Mount Sinai will apply together for funding.
"This partnership will allow our neuroscientists and Rensselaer's engineers to work together to identify shortcomings in imaging, develop new diagnostic tools, and even treatment tools, such as a system for helping paralyzed people walk and manipulate their environment with the assistance of robotics," said John Morrison, Ph.D., Dean of Basic Sciences at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai. "The federal government has recognized the unmet need for neurotechnologies in helping understand, diagnose, and treat some of the world's most devastating neurological disorders, and Mount Sinai and Rensselaer hope to be at the forefront in addressing that need."
Mount Sinai and Rensselaer plan to create the Mount Sinai and Rensselaer Collaborative Center for Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which will focus on transitioning basic research into innovative startup projects. The center will join with Mount Sinai's Center for Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, led by Geoffrey Smith, in guiding students and faculty from both institutions to accelerate research breakthroughs from the laboratory, to patent, and eventually to the marketplace.
"Mount Sinai will benefit greatly from Rensselaer's expertise in prototyping, engineering know-how, and intellectual property development, and Rensselaer from Mount Sinai's leadership in biomedical research," said Scott Friedman, M.D., Dean for Therapeutic Discovery at Mount Sinai. "This synergistic relationship will propel both institutions to the forefront of therapeutic discovery and development."
Under the new partnership, Rensselaer and Mount Sinai also will develop joint graduate educational programs in multiple areas of translational basic science, leveraging the strength of existing doctoral programs at each institution.
"We look forward to instilling the principles of engineering and commitment to problem solving inherent to Rensselaer's doctoral programs into our own Ph.D. programs, and offering Rensselaer Ph.D. students the opportunity to incorporate our strengths in biomedical sciences into their thesis projects," said Dr. Morrison. There will be new opportunities for students to pursue a program in which they will seamlessly earn an M.D. from Mount Sinai and a Ph.D. from Rensselaer. Rensselaer undergraduates also will have the opportunity to apply to FlexMed, Mount Sinai's unique early acceptance program, where college sophomores with any undergraduate major are accepted without the MCAT and with progressive pre-med requirements, with foundations in computational science and engineering, humanities and social sciences, or biomedical sciences.
The partnership offers new scholarly research opportunities for Mount Sinai medical students, and new research and clinical opportunities for Rensselaer students. The partnership also will result in cross-listed courses for students of both institutions, along with new summer programs for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers.
"Collaboration between Rensselaer and Mount Sinai will open up new possibilities for advancing the application of strong science and research to address critical health-care issues," said Deepak Vashishth, CBIS Director and Rensselaer Professor and department head of Biomedical Engineering. "Development of new treatment and strategies for early diagnoses of diseases will drive down health care costs and improve quality of life for the elderly population."