A significant investment in Weill Cornell's leading precision medicine program by Overseer Israel Englander and his wife Caryl will expand the scope of the institution's approach to understanding and treating disease through therapies customized to patients' unique genetic profiles.
The gift names the Caryl and Israel Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. The institute uses genomic sequencing to better understand the factors that drive disease development and progression and identify treatments that are most likely to be effective for each patient. The Englander Institute has focused on cancer since its inception in 2013 and this generous gift will widen its mission to emphasize dermatological malignancies as well as metabolic diseases, cardiovascular disease, genetic disorders, and respiratory diseases. The Institute plans to eventually offer precision medicine to as many as 6,000 cancer patients a year.
"Precision medicine is the future of healthcare," said Dr. Mark Rubin, director of the Englander Institute, the Homer T. Hirst III Professor of Oncology in Pathology, and a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and of pathology in urology. "Physician-scientists at the Englander Institute are making critical discoveries that are changing the lives of our patients and expanding our breadth of scientific knowledge. The Englanders' gift provides us with the resources to further capitalize on this tremendous opportunity."
The gift to Weill Cornell will support the recruitment of six investigators — including a leader in immunotherapy and three computational biologists — to expand the capabilities of its physician-scientists. It will also fund pilot grants for innovative, multi-investigator projects; outfit the Englander Institute with the latest technology and computational resources; and establish an endowment to ensure that it remains at the vanguard of the field.
"We are deeply grateful to the Englanders for their visionary gift, which will enable Weill Cornell to transform the way we practice medicine," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "Precision medicine offers great hope for understanding and treating some of the most formidable diseases of our time, and the Englanders' support will ensure that we can continue our work to enhance the care we provide our patients, both now and into the future."
Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett said, "The Englanders have our thanks and admiration for their generosity and targeted investment in the future of one of medicine's most promising fields and an area in which Cornell sets the pace."
"We are immensely appreciative of our generous supporters Caryl and Izzy Englander, whose confidence in the power of precision medicine to enhance human health is as inspiring as it is essential to spark scientific discovery," said Jessica M. Bibliowicz, chairman of Weill Cornell's Board of Overseers. "The Englanders' investment in Weill Cornell will help us expand a robust culture of innovation and maintain our position as a national leader in this field."
"Philanthropic support is critical for the advancement of translational research," said Sanford I. Weill, chairman emeritus of Weill Cornell's Board of Overseers. "Our friends Caryl and Izzy Englander have made their generous gift in an area that holds enormous promise for patients and in which Weill Cornell excels. Joan and I are incredibly grateful."
Computational biologists at the Englander Institute analyze tumor sequencing data and summarize the key clinical and genetic findings into physician-friendly reports that are seamlessly integrated into Weill Cornell's electronic health record system. Using these reports, a team of interdisciplinary specialists, including radiologists, pathologists, computational biologists, basic scientists, oncologists, and surgeons determine the best treatment options for each patient. With patients' permission, tissue samples from sequenced tumors are then saved in a biobank for further research.
The Englander Institute's expanded program will target areas of oncology including melanoma, a rare but serious form of skin cancer that the American Cancer Society estimates will kill about 10,000 of nearly 74,000 Americans diagnosed with it in 2015. Recent breakthroughs in melanoma research have yielded new treatments that target genetic mutations driving the disease, but it has been unclear which patients would most benefit from them; Institute investigators will try to identify those patients. Weill Cornell will recruit an investigator who specializes in melanoma research and provide support for research in immunotherapy, which uses the immune system to attack tumor cells.
"Groundbreaking research over the last few years has revolutionized our understanding of melanoma's molecular changes, bringing newfound hope to patients with advanced metastatic disease for whom treatment has been particularly challenging," said Dr. Richard Granstein, chairman of the Department of Dermatology and the George W. Hambrick, Jr. Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell. "With our expertise in genetic medicine and the Englanders' generous support, we expect to give our patients another powerful reason to hope."