SMCI launches new research program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

September 20, 2017

Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI) launched a new partnership with the prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City. The collaboration between the MSKCC scientist team and SMCI will investigate the biology of ME/CFS and explore investigation strategies using advanced technologies. This effort is the culmination of a series of meetings and strategy sessions over the past year with Dr. Ralph Garippa, an expert in drug screening analysis and target validation. Dr. Garippa is the Director of the Gene Editing & Screening (GES) Core Facility at The Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

This partnership program was facilitated by Dr. Scott W. Lowe, Chair of Cancer Genetics at MSKCC and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator (HHMI). This partnership is an important aspect of SMCI’s expanding portfolio of investments in ME/CFS. MSKCC now joins some of the most prestigious research and medical institutions in the country in their effort to build new ME/CFS research initiatives.

Just last month, the Solve ME/CFS Initiative announced a new ME/CFS research fund at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston. The BWH program is focused on the autonomic, peripheral neuropathy, and cardiovascular features of ME/CFS. In other words, this research focuses on the involuntary nervous system, nerve pain in the hands and feet, and the heart and blood vessels. These two programs will work in tandem to explore the biological underpinnings of ME/CFS and move towards transforming those findings into ME/CFS treatments.

The work at MSKCC will focus on improvements to patient care, broadly involving drug screening and functional genomics studies. These studies will use ME/CFS patient materials to probe potential treatment targets, potentially uncover biomarkers, and generate information about the molecular basis of ME/CFS. Using ME/CFS immune cells specifically, as well as other relevant cell-free systems and commercially available chemical libraries of characterized compounds, we hope this work will lead to interventions to bolster bioenergetics capacity and ATP production and identify targets for potential treatments. Our objective is also to isolate, evaluate, and validate potential biomarkers and examine their functional culprits in the pathophysiology of ME/CFS using large-scale, whole genome screens, the power of big data, and pharmaceutical-grade products and technologies.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center, has devoted more than 130 years to exceptional patient care, innovative research, and outstanding educational programs. Today, MSKCC is one of 47 NIH National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, with state-of-the-art science, flourishing side-by-side with clinical studies and treatment.

Dr. Nahle with Dr. Ralph Garippa, head of the RNAi core, and Dr. Myles Fennell, senior research scientist, at MSKCC

SMCI is committed to creating and advancing stand-alone ME/CFS programs like this one at major research universities and medical centers. Notably, this partnership is uniquely positioned to bring big data and pharmaceutical-grade products and technologies to bear, through MSKCC’s robust chemical libraries and systems. Dr. Zaher Nahle, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President for Research at Solve ME/CFS Initiative, commented “we are very excited about this partnership, especially since we view many molecular aspects of ME/CFS with the same potential as we view tumor metabolism and senescence-like programming in cancer.” He added that “a considerable part of our work at SMCI is concentrated on these areas. It is also gratifying to be working with world class scientists who are previous colleagues of mine.” Prior to joining SMCI, Dr. Nahle was a faculty member and a laboratory head at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), which is part of the Tri-institution complex including WCM, Rockefeller University, and MSKCC.

Dr. Ralph Garippa is a leading authority on therapeutic platforms and novel technologies. He was previously affiliated with Roche Discovery Technologies. During his tenure, he established and directed their cell-based high-throughput screening and high-content facilities. He also helped establish collaborations in the area of stem cell technologies. Dr. Garippa earned his PhD in Pharmacology from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

SMCI is thrilled to be partnering with MSKCC researchers who have been working to solve complex diseases for over a century and who are at the forefront of scientific inquiry and advances in medicine. For SMCI, facilitating the development of innovative programs that are dedicated to ME/CFS is top priority. We hope collaborative research programs like these will provide the ME/CFS community with robust, cutting-edge technology platforms.