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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Fall 1995, Vol.15, No.3
Alumni News and Notes
The 21st Century Fund: New Resources for a New Era in Medical Science

By Peter Wortsman and Robin Roy
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
That famous first line of Dickens' classic, "A Tale of Two Cities," is a particularly appropriate characterization of the current state of academic medicine. Never have the answers to so many critical medical questions been so close at hand. Yet never has the federal lifeline of funding for biomedical research been so precarious. While world-class P&S scientists and clinicians are working feverishly to combat such problems as drug abuse, cancer, heart disease, and AIDS and to unlock the mysteries of the human genome, congressmen in Washington are threatening to pull the plug.

Dean Herbert Pardes has directed the establishment of the 21st Century Fund to ensure support for innovative new research, cutting-edge therapeutic, diagnostic, and information technology, interdisciplinary programs, the library, student aid, and curriculum initiatives. These and other essential efforts represent the academic infrastructure of the institution yet often fall between the cracks of established funding sources.

The funding needs of a great medical school like P&S are varied. When the dean recruited Dr. David Bickers, a dynamic new chairman to reinvigorate the Department of Dermatology, he promised to provide the facilities to pursue his research in photodynamic cancer therapy and other areas and to build up a solid research-based academic program. One of the department's unfortunate deficiencies in recent years had been the lack of modern laboratory space. Dean Pardes decided to revamp some 7,000 square feet of laboratory facilities on the 15th floor of the old Vanderbilt Clinic. The

future research potential, according to Dr. Bickers, transcends traditional departmental boundaries. "The skin is a neurobiological outpost," he insists. "It is the model tissue to study some very basic biological responses, particularly in the complex field of cancer research."

In the December 1994 issue of Science, Dr. Yuan Chang, assistant professor of pathology, and Dr. Patrick Moore, assistant professor of public health, reported their finding of DNA sequences in Kaposi's sarcoma similar to the DNA sequences of gamma herpesviruses. The new finding opens pathways for improvements in diagnosis and treatment of KS and is another example of a virus implicated in cancer causation. Drs. Chang and Moore used the latest tools in molecular biology-representational difference analysis and polymerase chain reaction-to isolate the extraneous viral DNA sequences.

This is just one example of the many advances occurring day-to-day at P&S. To maintain the level of inquiry and discovery that has made American medicine the envy of the world, we must continue to be vigilant in looking beyond the horizon of current knowledge. To do so, the best medical schools-with P&S leading the way-must remain fiscally strong.

Fortunately, the conclusion of this medical epic has not been written. You can make a difference in the outcome and help pioneer the future of medicine by supporting the P&S 21st Century Fund, a new resource for a new era of discovery. Information about participating in the 21st Century Fund may be requested from Jill Barkan in Health Sciences Development at (212) 781-2100.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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