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Upstate shares in special SUNY funding to create Institute for Environmental Health & Environmental Medicine

Upstate shares in special SUNY funding to create Institute for Environmental Health & Environmental Medicine

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Four Central New York SUNY institutions-- the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College--have been awarded $15 million through a competitive SUNY grant program to create the SUNY Institute of Environmental Health & Environmental Medicine. The announcement was made June 3 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The funding comes from the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant program, in which SUNY campuses developed and submitted collaborative economic development projects for funding. In addition to the Institute, three other projects representing 15 other SUNY campuses, each received a $15 million grant.

The Institute to be developed by ESF, Upstate, Oswego and Onondaga will be the first of its kind in the nation. The Institute will focus on the connection between human health and the environment and aims to bring novel solutions to health care problems by igniting research, attracting new businesses, and expanding college education opportunities. Building upon the partners' expertise in medicine, environment, engineering, entrepreneurship, technology and education, the Institute will offer offer: a hub for translational research, a health-oriented wireless innovation center, degree program pathways, and support for business development.

“At the core of this announcement is the realization that SUNY can help power economic recovery in New York, while at the same time expand scientific discovery, improve public health and train and educate future leaders in the growing field of environmental health and medicine,” said Upstate President David R. Smith, MD. “This institute provides Upstate with the opportunity to scale its regional mission in a responsive way, both nationally and globally.”

The institute will leverage the strengths of the four SUNY campuses and other regional partners to support teaching, research, health care and entrepreneurial activity. The Institute will collaborate with area industry partners including Welch Allyn, Colden Corp., C&S, O'Brien & Gere, and ConMed Corp. The institute will also provide new opportunities for development within existing partnerships such as the Central New York Biotechnology Research Accelerator and the University Hill Collaboration in Environmental Medicine.

The proposal to create the institute complements the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council's (REDC) Five-Year Economic Development Strategic Plan. The project expects to create 400 construction jobs, 651 permanent jobs in the wireless technology field and other areas of development, and expanded student enrollments. It also expects to contribute to 20 patents and at least 22 new start-up companies in five years.

Officials say funding for a project, which focuses on building healthier interactions between people and the environment, comes at a critical time. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of human disease is attributable to the environment, whether by man-made hazards, such as air and water pollution, or viral outbreaks, emerging pathogens and environmental catastrophes.

Smith said the center builds on Upstate’s strengths, such as its biomedical research enterprise, its clinical system that services nearly one-third of New York state and educational programs.

Biomedical research will be strengthened as key projects draw on the institute’s collaborative synergy to create ideas that can be commercialized. Already, Upstate researchers are directing a clinical trial in a vaccine for dengue, a debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease that is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics, and whose presence has been reported in the United States and Western Europe.

On the issue of healthcare, Upstate is expected to play a key role in advancing improved and cost-saving ways to deliver healthcare with the institute’s technology partners. Such an undertaking has the potential to change when, where and how healthcare is provided.

As an institute member, Upstate expects to enhance educational offerings in this specialized area of environmental health and medicine, by working wit its SUNY partners on tailoring new academic programs to industry needs, thus enabling a ready pool of skilled employees.

“This funding and the proposed institute expands the intellectual boundaries of our respective SUNY campuses in ways that no other collaborative effort has done to date,” Smith said. “Through this collaboration we magnify the power of SUNY.”

A timeframe for the creation of the Institute is in development.

Caption: Upstate Medical University President David R. Smith, MD, greets New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the governor's visit to the Upstate campus May 22. The governor recently announced that several SUNY campuses, including Upstate, will receive funding from the SUNY2020 program.