Milstein gift seeks cure for antibiotic-resistant TB and malaria

A $7.25 million gift to Weill Medical College of Cornell University will establish the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Chemistry Core Facility and the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology.

Together the Program and Core Facility will expedite the discovery of new drug treatments; foster unique and innovative collaborations; and bolster the fight against disease -- with an initial emphasis on infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, which are particularly challenging problems in Africa.

The gift, which is part of the Medical College's recently completed $750 million Advancing the Clinical Mission capital campaign, will support the creation of the Core Facility and provide operating funds for the Program in Chemical Biology.

"This ambitious and worthy endeavor, made possible through the generosity and vision of Howard and Abby Milstein, will harness one of the most promising scientific disciplines -- analytic and synthetic chemistry -- in order to address some of the world's most pressing public health problems," says Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., dean of Weill Cornell Medical College.

"It is our hope that this Program will stimulate research that expedites the creation of breakthrough cures, treatments and technology that have a lasting impact on the health of people worldwide," says Howard P. Milstein, a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College.

"The health crisis in developing nations is a crisis for us all," says Andrew Young, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and prominent civil rights leader. "By supporting research focused on cures, innovative efforts exemplified by this new initiative will go a long way toward promoting health, and, in turn, development, democracy and human rights."

The new Chemistry Core Facility will be open to all Cornell faculty in support of diverse types of biomedical research. The Program, which is distinct from the Core Facility, will initially prioritize research on infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. Together these diseases kill millions every year, with the brunt of their destruction felt in the developing world, especially in Africa. Combining chemical biology with genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology and immunology, the Program will seek to identify new synthesized chemicals and validated drug targets. Compounds of most interest will be donated to public-private partnerships that are oriented toward not-for-profit drug development, such as the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and the Medicines for Malaria Venture.

The Core will be located in the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, chaired by Dr. Frederick Maxfield; the Core Facility director will be a member of that Department. "The Chemistry Core Facility will capitalize on the wealth of exciting new genomic information by inventing new tools for biology -- chemicals that specifically inhibit the products of individual genes," says Dr. Maxfield, who is also the Israel Rogosin Professor of the Department of Biochemistry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Carl Nathan, who will direct the Program and is a member of a faculty committee that will advise the Core Facility director, concurs. Dr. Nathan is chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology at Weill Cornell. "In turn," he adds, "these chemical tools will serve a wide range of translational research programs aimed at developing new treatments for disease.

The Howard and Abby Milstein gift will allow for the recruitment of postdoctoral fellows with chemistry expertise and the purchase of specialized chemical libraries for the improved identification of specific inhibitors of biologic processes. The goal of this resource is the discovery of compounds that have a desired effect on a particular enzyme or cell. Much of this work will be done through multidisciplinary collaborations.

"As an invaluable research resource, the Core Facility and Program in Chemical Biology will foster myriad collaborations," says Dr. David Hajjar, vice provost and dean, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University. These include collaborations among departments at Weill Cornell and the entire Cornell University community; with The Rockefeller University and The Sloan-Kettering Institute (who, along with Weill Cornell, make up the immediate Tri-Institutional community); with partners overseas in areas of high disease incidence; and with industrial pharmaceutical scientists.

Howard Milstein is chairman of New York Private Bank & Trust, as well as co-chairman, president and CEO of Emigrant Savings Bank. He serves as a trustee of Cornell University, where he received his undergraduate degree in 1973. He has been a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College since 1989. The Milstein family has a long history of generosity in support of Weill Cornell. Over the years, Mr. Milstein has been a strong supporter of the Medical Center's neuroscience initiatives and its Cabaret! benefit events.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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