NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Visits NSCI

Last Thursday, we were privileged enough to be visited by NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. During her visit, she announced a bill which would aim at stimulating private investment in local research facilities.
The America Innovates Act of 2012 (S. 2369) “creates a bank which is aimed to help universities and institutions turn scientific ideas into commercialized products that will attract private investment and the critical capital which is needed to commercialize,” said Gillibrand. “Many of our universities and research institutions lack the resources they need to take a scientific breakthrough into a high-tech job or a high-tech product.”

Specifically, the bill would create an independent agency, the American Innovation Bank, with the ability to direct loans and grants to non-profit research organizations, individual researchers, and private companies.

During a small press conference held in the building our Director of Research and Development, Dr. Chris Fasano, was asked to speak. Here are his opening remarks.

The ultimate goal of biomedical research is translating basic

discoveries into therapeutics for sick patients. For years, state

and federal grants have done a tremendous job establishing a

rich pipeline of discovery in all fields of biomedical science.

However, programs for the translation of these discoveries have

not been so abundant and this gap, better known as”The Valley of Death”, is a critical roadblock for the successful transition from bench to bedside.

In 2007, Dr. Sally temple and Dr. Jeffery Stern

founded this institute — the first independent stem cell institute in

the country — to be an oasis in “The Valley of Death” for the

successful translation of neural stem cell discoveries.

The east campus of the University of New York at Albany was an easy choice for a location due to its integration of academic labs, core facilities, and small companies.

Administratively lean, but rooted in academic research, NSCI can

be nimble and autonomous in its decisions on how best to take

the discovery out of the lab and into clinical trials. Just like most

academic institutions, NSCI is dependent on federal and state

grants, and has been quite successful securing funds through the

years.

With this, we have made key discoveries including a

potential drug to combat macular degeneration, as well as a small

time-released system to implant into injured spinal cords to

promote regeneration. While our results show tremendous

promise, big pharmaceutical companies do not take risks at such an early stage, and will not invest until the product is much further developed, typically costing 10s to100s of millions. — a cost too much for us to bear.

 

NSCI Director of Research and Development, Dr. Christopher Fasano, gives his opening remarks as NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand looks on.

We sincerely thank Senator Gillibrand for taking the time to visit our institute and speak with us.

This post comes to you from Rachel Wurster. Research technician by day, social media guru by midday and on some rare occasions evenings.

 

NSCI First Video

Remember that Behind the Scene blog a while ago about our first video shoot. Well ….. drum roll please ….. it’s finally here and ready for your viewing. We here at NSCI would again like to thank Modern Mix Marketing for putting this together for us. We hope you find this video insightful and get a glimpse into our wonderful Institute. Enjoy!

Click Below!

Neural Stem Cell Institute Video

 

The Central Nervous System, It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Here at the Neural Stem Cell institute (NSCI), we’ve made it our mission to help create therapies that will help in repairing damage to the central nervous system. So why is the nervous system so important? Why study it?

The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain, spinal cord, and retina as well as a complex system of nerves. Not only is the CNS the first system in the body to develop, it also reigns supreme and controls almost every action within the body. Whether it is moving your fingers to press keys on a keyboard (like I am currently demonstrating), having a conversation with a friend, or commanding the cells required for growth, maintenance and healing of an injury, the CNS is the command center.

We have chosen to devote our time to studying the CNS because it is incapable of healing itself in the way other tissues do, such as the skin. Because of this, damage or disease in the CNS is often permanant. We believe that neural stem cells (NSCs) hold great promise for regenerative therapy for damaged CNS. The ability to regenerate neurons and the supporting glial cells, such as oligodendrocytes, has applications in helping many diseases and injuries of the CNS. Ever since our scientists at NSCI discovered CNS stem cells in 1989, we have aimed to harness the regenerative power of neural stem cells to ease suffering caused by injury and disease. The implications of this research are far-reaching.

Much of our research focuses on the NSCs that lie dormant in our nervous systems. These are stem cells that were active long ago when you were still a twinkle in your mother’s eye. These dormant cells can be activated to mediate repair and regeneration in lower animals that do have the capability to regenerate brain tissue or even re-grow an eye. Equivalent cells are present in humans, but they just need a swift kick to get them going again. The NSCs that accomplish such remarkable repair are inhibited in higher animals like humans or mice but can be activated by injecting stem cell growth factors. We have found that implanting growth factor releasing microbeads (adding a few extra ingredients to the pot so to speak) helps improve the ability of spinal cord injured mice to walk. The microbeads help to activate the resident dormant stem cells and aid repair of the injury. How cool is that! We are working to apply such skills to a variety of injuries and diseases that damage our CNS.

NSCI scientists have also discovered a new kind of NSCs in the adult retinal pigment epithelium (RPESC), which can be used for autologous transplantation (cells are removed and then placed back into the same individual after some tweaking). These cells are likely to be beneficial for Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and even for nervous system disorders outside the retina. These RPESC are also used to develop disease models for drug discovery.

Just look at all the interesting things the CNS can do. We only need to learn how to harness its power more fully. With continued hard work and creativity we believe we can help the human CNS repair itself!

This post comes to you from Rachel Wurster. Research technician by day, blogger and tweeter extraordinaire by midday.

Comment Corner

Are you or anyone you know affected by disease or damage of the CNS? Tell us your story.

What’s your favorite thing about the CNS?

Erzsi’s Goodbye Luncheon

Our dear friend and colleague Erzsebet Kokovay will be leaving us this week to head her own lab at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio. She has even received their prestigious Rising Star grant which provides extra start up money for promising new investigators. Even though we are sad to see Erzsi go, we are truly happy for this exciting new phase of her career. We wish her the very best. I’ve included some photos of her farewell party below.

Everyone sitting down for a NSCI family meal in honor of Erzsi.

Erzsi (second from the right) watches as someone picks a new gift from the Yankee Swap Table

David opens up his gift from the Yankee Swap. The coveted iPod nano.

Behind The Scenes of Our First Video Shoot

Exciting stuff is happening here at The Neural Stem Cell Institute! We just had our first  shoot for a fundraising video for the Institute. Featured were Dr. Sally Temple, Dr. Jeff Stern, Chris McMahon, and Dr. Christopher Fasano. We would particularly like to thank Chris McMahon for coming by to share his inspirational story with us. I’ve included some exclusive behind the scenes photo below. Stay tuned!

The nice folks from Modern Mix Marketing (http://modernmixmarketing.com/) setting up for the shoot.

Chris McMahon being interviewed for the video.

Dr. Gretchen Kusek demonstrating her exquisite dissection skills.

Me showing off my breathtaking gel loading skills.

Steve Lotz looking down the scope at some lovely cells.

Dr. Christopher Fasano being interviewed for the video.

This post comes to you from Rachel Wurster. Research technician by day, blogger and tweeter extraordinaire by midday.