It's a growing trend in research institutions across the country: housing scientists and clinicians in open facilities that encourage collaboration. Health reporter Erin Billups takes a look at a new building now open in the city that hopes to churn out medical innovation after innovation.
Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase or PI3K, is an enzyme oncologist Dr. Lewis Cantley discovered 23 years ago. Understanding how its mutations effect cancer and other diseases is his ongoing mission.
"We discovered that it mediates insulin responses,” said Weill Cornell Cancer Center Director Dr. Cantley, Weill Cornell. “You lose function of PI3K in the liver and muscle and you end up with diabetes. You gain its function in an epithelial tissue and it becomes a cancer."
Cantley moved to New York from Massachusetts’s Harvard University to work at Weill Cornell Medical College, one of the first tenants in its new Belfer Research Building.
He hopes the unique environment will lead to the discovery of new treatments for cancer.
"We realize that the number of different technologies you need in order to attack this disease. things like FDG PET, most basic scientists aren’t experts on that, we need to work with radiology, we have to work with clinicians,” said Cantley.
It's a new, more open approach to research, The 480,000-square foot, 18-story building, funded almost solely by donors, will double the school's existing research space.
Glass walls mean you can look right into labs, conference rooms, eating areas.
It's meant to foster the collaboration scientists like Cantley are looking for.
"We're going to have clinicians talking to pathologists, talking to radiologists, surgeons, oncologists, scientists all working together, nothing is going to be siloed,” said Dr. Laurie Glimcher, Weill Cornell Medical College Dean.
And with that increased collaboration researchers hope to get their work out into clinical trials even faster, working intimately with New York's diverse communities.
"Different ethnic groups have different predispositions for different types of cancer. This is probably the best place in the world to figure that out,” said Cantley.
"Each patient is different and has a unique genetic profile and that we need to be designing therapeutics tailored for that individual patient,” said Glimcher.
A collaboration between Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell and Takeda Pharmaceuticals will play a role in drug discovery.
It will be housed in the Belfer building along with research space for Hunter College.