New York, NY – October 26, 2023 (Mount Sinai)– The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has received a $4.6 million gift from The Pershing Square Foundation to support women’s health research and advance careers for female scientists. Part of an original nearly $21 million gift that expanded a COVID-19 testing program for New York City schools and other organizations, this boost in women-focused initiatives connects The Pershing Square Foundation’s interest in supporting women in science to Mount Sinai’s leading researchers and key initiatives in gender-based science and health.
“We first worked with the incredible team at Mount Sinai in 2021 after identifying a gap in critically needed COVID-19 testing at New York City public schools,” says Bill Ackman, co-Trustee of The Pershing Square Foundation. “The team at Mount Sinai understood the challenge, immediately rose to the occasion, and quickly built a robust testing operation from scratch which allowed children in New York City to safely return to school. We’re thrilled to partner with Mount Sinai, again in a time of critical need, to address the long-overdue health inequity that burdens women and women’s health science. The Pershing Square Foundation is proud to support female physicians and researchers in all fields and contribute to closing the knowledge gap in women’s health.”
The gift will support critically needed discovery studies in four important areas across a female’s lifespan: endometriosis, cervical cancer, preeclampsia, and menopause. Michal Elovitz, MD, inaugural Dean for Women’s Health Research and founding Director of the Women’s Biomedical Research Institute, will drive these four initiatives. A transdisciplinary team that leverages diverse expertise across the Mount Sinai Health System will lead discovery. It includes experts in neurology (Fanny Elahi, MD, PhD), immunology (Miriam Merad, MD, PhD), oncology (Stephanie V. Blank, MD; Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD), gynecology (Susan S. Khalil, MD; Konstantin Zakashansky, MD), and others devoted to advancing women’s health science.
These conditions have remained largely understudied, yet impact millions of women:
- Nearly 200 million girls and women worldwide experience endometriosis, including pain and loss of work and wages, yet no new class of drugs has been approved for the disease in the last two decades.
- While preeclampsia remains a leading contributor to the growing crisis of maternal morbidity and mortality, there is still no effective treatment for this disease.
- More than half the population will experience menopause, and with that biological event, women will experience short- and long-term changes in cognitive function. Yet little is known about how this time of hormonal transition interacts with aging to impact neurological health.
- Despite the promise of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, premalignant and malignant lesions of the cervix continue to create inequitable health burdens for women and especially women of color.
This funding will serve to accelerate discovery for these female-specific conditions, supporting studies that address health burdens at different points across the lifespan with the hope of broadening the impact of scientific discovery for more women. The ultimate goal of these studies is to reveal key biology of these conditions, thus providing new opportunities for reliable and rigorous diagnostics and, importantly, novel therapeutics.
“As the Dean for Women’s Health Research, I am empowered—along with an amazing group of clinicians, researchers, and scientists at Mount Sinai—to create a new paradigm for advancing women’s health,” said Dr. Elovitz. “The lack of scientific focus on reproductive and gynecological conditions, as well as the failure to fully understand sex-specific biology across many other diseases, has led to dramatically unequal outcomes for women, not just during pregnancy but across their lifespan. In addition to female-specific diseases, women suffer at a greater rate from many other autoimmune, neurological, and mental health disorders. But understanding the basic biology that drives female-specific conditions and sex-specific drivers of health outcomes for women is a key obstacle to meaningful improvements in health outcomes for women. With the support of this grant from The Pershing Square Foundation, we will be able to significantly advance our understanding of women’s health.”
Additional earmarks for the grant include $1 million for the Distinguished Scholars Award Program of Mount Sinai’s Office of Gender Equity in Science and Medicine. While women represent half of early-career researchers at the assistant professor level, there is a sharp drop in their advancement, and only one third of mid-career or associate professors are women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Distinguished Scholars directly addresses the key reasons for this weak pipeline by providing career mentorship and sponsorship, as well as stipends and other aid for women to grow their research programs and maintain momentum as they integrate family caretaking into their careers. With this grant, over the course of four years, 20 female assistant professors will become Distinguished Scholars. This will significantly expand the program’s ability to help women progress from assistant to associate professors.
“With the support of The Pershing Square Foundation, we will help women not only climb the academic ladder, but also become academic leaders and cultivate more gender-equitable, inclusive environments,” said Carol Horowitz, MD, Dean for Gender Equity in Science and Medicine and Director of the Institute for Health Equity Research. “We will expand the mentorship, guidance, and counsel we provide these talented women, and help them form a supportive network to accelerate their success and impact. The continued support of programs and research that further gender equity in health care is a testament to Mount Sinai’s commitment to advance women in science, but also speaks volumes about the greater need of investment in this area of academic medicine.”
About the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is internationally renowned for its outstanding research, educational, and clinical care programs. It is the sole academic partner for the eight- member hospitals* of the Mount Sinai Health System, one of the largest academic health systems in the United States, providing care to a large and diverse patient population.
Ranked 14th nationwide in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and among the 99th percentile in research dollars per investigator according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Icahn Mount Sinai has a talented, productive, and successful faculty. More than 3,000 full-time scientists, educators, and clinicians work within and across 44 academic departments and 36 multidisciplinary institutes, a structure that facilitates tremendous collaboration and synergy. Our emphasis on translational research and therapeutics is evident in such diverse areas as genomics/big data, virology, neuroscience, cardiology, geriatrics, as well as gastrointestinal and liver diseases.
Icahn Mount Sinai offers highly competitive MD, PhD, and Master’s degree programs, with current enrollment of approximately 1,300 students. It has the largest graduate medical education program in the country, with more than 2,000 clinical residents and fellows training throughout the Health System. In addition, more than 550 postdoctoral research fellows are in training within the Health System.
A culture of innovation and discovery permeates every Icahn Mount Sinai program. Mount Sinai’s technology transfer office, one of the largest in the country, partners with faculty and trainees to pursue optimal commercialization of intellectual property to ensure that Mount Sinai discoveries and innovations translate into healthcare products and services that benefit the public.
Icahn Mount Sinai’s commitment to breakthrough science and clinical care is enhanced by academic affiliations that supplement and complement the School’s programs.
Through the Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP), the Health System facilitates the real-world application and commercialization of medical breakthroughs made at Mount Sinai. Additionally, MSIP develops research partnerships with industry leaders such as Merck & Co., AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and others.
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is located in New York City on the border between the Upper East Side and East Harlem, and classroom teaching takes place on a campus facing Central Park. Icahn Mount Sinai’s location offers many opportunities to interact with and care for diverse communities. Learning extends well beyond the borders of our physical campus, to the eight hospitals of the Mount Sinai Health System, our academic affiliates, and globally.
* Mount Sinai Health System member hospitals: The Mount Sinai Hospital; Mount Sinai Beth Israel; Mount Sinai Brooklyn; Mount Sinai Morningside; Mount Sinai Queens; Mount Sinai South Nassau; Mount Sinai West; and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.
About The Pershing Square Foundation
The Pershing Square Foundation (PSF) is a family foundation established in 2006 to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable global impact. PSF has committed more than $600 million in grants and social investments in target areas including health and medicine, education, economic development and social justice. Bill Ackman and Neri Oxman are co-trustees of the Foundation. For more information visit: www.pershingsquarefoundation.org.