Sinainnovations Ignites Momentum For A New Era Of Innovation At The Mount Sinai Medical Center

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Cross-discipline collaboration and joint ventures will foster entrepreneurship, and yield a larger stream of novel drugs and diagnostics to benefit patients.

“We must embrace partnerships that will accelerate science wherever those partnerships may be, and create new paradigms for leadership and innovation that improve human health,” said Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and CEO, The Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Modern medicine must embrace an entrepreneurial spirit in order to attract and foster innovative scientists, identify and develop new therapies, and accelerate their commercialization to benefit patients. This is the consensus coming out of The Mount Sinai Medical Center’s SINAInnovations conference (#SINAInnovations) which concluded last week with clear recommendations for the institution and academic medicine at large.

“We must embrace partnerships that will accelerate science wherever those partnerships may be, and create new paradigms for leadership and innovation that improve human health,” said Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and CEO, The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “This means responsible partnerships with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and an unflagging commitment to advance science and translation despite the challenges of funding, waning NIH budgets, and increasing demands on academic medical centers to conform to a changing regulatory environment.”

During the conference, innovators in academia, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and the investment community acknowledged that with lives in the balance, health care is a traditionally conservative field. However, they suggested that academic medicine – and Mount Sinai in particular – is uniquely positioned to challenge the current culture.

“Academic medical centers bring a unique combination of science, clinical networks, and patient data to the table that are critical to fueling the innovation engine,” said Paul Stoffels, MD, Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman for Pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson during the panel. “There is significant opportunity for continued discovery and collaboration among academic researchers and pharmaceutical industry researchers in developing science-based solutions that address pressing health care challenges.”

Throughout the conference, panelists discussed how a new culture of medicine that breaks down silos, forges collaborative partnerships, takes calculated risks, and leverages new technologies and tools will ultimately protect the health of patients and usher in a new era of innovation.

“To meet the challenges ahead – in research, patient care, and education – academic medicine must create its own new paradigm for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Dennis S. Charney, MD, the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “At Mount Sinai we are re-writing the rules across the institution and defining a path we believe academic medical centers across the country can follow.”

“The ultimate goal of innovation in medicine is to benefit all of humanity and improve health. The public expects a return on their investment, in the form of improved therapeutics and diagnostics and in addressing health care disparities,” said Scott L. Friedman, MD, Dean for Therapeutic Discovery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center and creator of the summit, in discussing reasons why academic medical centers must innovate. “The pipeline for the major drugs that we need is empty, and there are major public health menaces that we do not have therapeutics for – dementia, obesity, and the consequences of diabetes. It is a moral imperative for the public good that academic medical centers bring their ideas to commercialization.”

Conference insights and recommendations:
With the goal of mapping out a blueprint to foster innovation and accelerate drug and biotechnology discoveries at academic medical centers, challenges and recommendations emerging out of the conference included:

Create a Structure for Innovation
The need to create a structure for innovation and foster new ideas at all levels of academic institutions was a recurring theme and one that Mount Sinai has actively promoted across the institution. Keynote speakers Ivan Seidenberg, Retired Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications and Jeffrey Hammerbacher, Founder and Chief Scientist, Cloudera and Assistant Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine spoke of the importance of breaking down silos, team building from top to bottom, and taking calculated risks. They also emphasized a structured approach and strategic focus. “In the old days you could have 100 projects and they all are important. But somebody has to sit down to think about which ones have the potential to scale and which have the potential for materiality,” said Seidenberg.

Harness Data and Embrace Technology Across Disciplines
Jeffrey Hammerbacher, Founder and Chief Scientist, Cloudera and Assistant Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine discussed in his keynote speech the role data will play in revolutionizing medicine, and the need to invest in both the visionary scientists to analyze the data and the infrastructure in which to do it. "There is a new manifest destiny. Rather than from sea to shining sea, we are now looking from atom to bit. The healthcare world is turning digital, and you can ride that wave or be washed up. I'm proud to be part of a remarkable organization like Mount Sinai that is riding that wave." Hammerbacher pointed to Mount Sinai’s PACT program which uses predictive data models to determine risk for readmission as one way Mount Sinai is already using big data successfully. Throughout the conference, participants noted that the ability to crunch big data is critical, that big leaps in medicine will depend on this and it is what all academic medical centers need to do to drive breakthroughs.

Develop New Funding Models
Participants acknowledged that the appetite for investing in biotechnology is a fraction of what it was fifteen years ago and cited the need to invent new models for investment, including venture philanthropy and balanced partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry that are transparent and have similar interests. “Academic institutions are starting to build the infrastructure where noble ideas can be fostered in the early stages, and Mount Sinai is a good example of this,” said Uwe Schoenbeck, CSO, Pfizer. “At Pfizer’s Center for Therapeutic Innovation we are collaborating directly with academic investigators and institutions, including Mount Sinai, in the same lab to accelerate progress and test ideas.” Other ideas included generating more intellectual property, and exploring new mobile applications and delivery systems that can enhance and improve patient care. Participants also discussed the challenges of the regulatory environment and suggested the need for a better model for generating revenues from repurposed drugs that will incentivize commercial entities to invest their resources in them for new diseases. “It’s important for scientists to get involved in how we regulate technology, and in advocacy and funding decisions,” said Elazer R. Edelman, the Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor Health Sciences and Technology at MIT.

Create New Paradigms in Training and Education
Participants discussed the need to adapt current educational programs to prepare students for the workplace that exists for scientists beyond academic research positions. Led by Geoffrey W. Smith, Director of the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (CTIE), Mount Sinai is ahead of the curve in creating new curricula. As a venture capitalist, Smith is training students how to navigate commercial practices and interact with regulators, financiers, and corporations. In addition, Mount Sinai released a new "Inventor's Guide" ( to help faculty, trainees, and staff commercialize their creative output. In addition, participants suggested setting aside 20 percent of graduate students’ time to pursue non-doctoral research projects related to design and innovation, and providing academic recognition for those who pursue patents and other interdisciplinary work with biotechnology and pharma.

Held November 12 -14, 2012 at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the first-ever SINAInnovations conference gathered more than 600 individuals and featured 17 sessions that covered innovation in teaching, drug discovery, and commercialization. Discussions were led by Mount Sinai faculty, MD and PhD candidates and featured Ivan Seidenberg, Retired Chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications; David Zaslav, President & CEO of Discovery Communications; June Lee, Program Analyst, UCSF, T1 Catalyst Program;; John Collins, COO, MIT, CIMIT Program; Elazer R. Edelman, Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor, Health Sciences and Technology, MIT, and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Nicholas Jones, Dean of the Whiting School at Johns Hopkins University John Sninsky, Vice President, Celera; Uwe Schoenbeck, CSO, Pfizer; Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer and Worldwide Chairman, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson; Muzammil M. Mansuri, Senior Vice President, Gilead Pharmaceuticals; and Melinda Thomas, NYC Tech Connect.

Video highlights from SINAInnovations will be posted soon to

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center
The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of the leading medical schools in the United States. The Medical School is noted for innovation in education, biomedical research, clinical care delivery, and local and global community service. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 14 research institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and by U.S. News and World Report.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital 14th on its elite Honor Roll of the nation's top hospitals based on reputation, safety, and other patient-care factors. Mount Sinai is one of 12 integrated academic medical centers whose medical school ranks among the top 20 in NIH funding and by U.S. News and World Report and whose hospital is on the U.S. News and World Report Honor Roll. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 560,000 outpatient visits took place. For more information, visit

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Twitter: @mountsinainyc

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Christie Corbett
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