The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Higher Education and Professional Practice


Master Plan Amendment: Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Science, M.S., Ph.D., Cancer Biology


August 26, 2004




Sloan-Kettering needs the Regents approval of a master plan amendment to offer its first degree programs


Goals 2 and 4






 The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Manhattan, seeks approval of a master plan amendment for the Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Science to authorize the Graduate School’s first degree programs, M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Cancer Biology.  A petition for a provisional charter for the Graduate School appears separately on this month’s agenda.  Master plan amendment is needed to authorize an institution’s first degree programs.  The Department has determined that the proposed programs, if approved, would meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.


Recommendation:  I recommend that the Regents take the following action:


VOTED, that the Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Science, Manhattan, be authorized by master plan amendment, effective September 10, 2004, to offer Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in Cancer Biology.  This amendment will be effective only until September 30, 2005, unless the programs are registered by the Department prior to that date, in which case master plan amendment shall be without term.

Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Science

M.S., Ph.D., Cancer Biology


Academic Review


A. Institutional Information.  The petitioner is the governing board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  One of the premier cancer research centers in the world, Memorial Sloan-Kettering is located at 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY, and adjacent addresses.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering consists of three corporations: Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases (founded 1884), Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research (established in 1946), and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (established in 1960).  The petitioner proposes the establishment of a fourth corporation as part of this complex: the Sloan-Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Science, which would offer M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Cancer Biology, in the discipline area of the biological sciences. 


          Memorial Sloan-Kettering has a long history of graduate education.  Over 350 Ph.D. students have graduated from the Sloan-Kettering Division of Cornell University’s Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences.  The institution also participates in an M.D./Ph.D. program with its neighbors, Cornell and Rockefeller Universities.  In addition, two new tri-institutional (Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Rockefeller, and Cornell) graduate programs have been created during the past three years.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering plans to continue its synergy with these other institutions to mutual benefit.


The programs noted above are focused on basic science research; the proposed Cancer Biology program will offer an integrated curriculum that travels from the gene to human disease while using the basic science to inform understanding about clinical treatment and science.  Therefore, Memorial Sloan-Kettering expects it to be attractive to students interested in human disease and to introduce a new population of excellent students and researchers to the State, significantly improving graduate education in New York in a manner unlikely to be detrimental to any other program.


          B. Curriculum.  The Cancer Biology curriculum would exploit the extensive integration between Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s basic science and clinical research efforts.  It includes course work and laboratory rotations during the first year of study, constant exposure to cutting-edge science through interactions with faculty and visiting investigators, and dissertation research.  Special emphasis will be placed on: (i) the development of a self-reliant approach to assimilating knowledge, (ii) the development of skills in critical analysis and logic as applied to scientific reasoning, and (iii) the integration of basic science knowledge with human disease physiology.


          The core of the curriculum would be a single integrated Cancer Biology Core Course that will take students from genes and proteins to cancer physiology.  Students have the opportunity to learn about the realities of clinical practice as observers in the clinic; they also will be immersed in the flow of modern research by meeting each week with the speaker in the President's Research Seminar Series, which brings distinguished scientists to the institution, to discuss their work and their thoughts on the challenges for the future.


Students will arrive in early August and engage in their first four-week laboratory rotation.  During the fall and spring semesters the Cancer Biology Core Course will meet five days per week for three hours each day for a combination of lecture and discussion of papers from the primary literature.  Students also will meet weekly with their first-year mentor; attend a sampling of the research seminars at the Center; attend the President's Research Seminar Series Journal Club, the Presidents Research Seminar, and meet with the speaker; meet as a group with the Dean once per week to discuss a scientific topic, the curriculum, the quality of the teaching, or any other issue that they feel bears on their education; and have tea twice weekly with investigators from the faculty to discuss their research.


Two four-week laboratory rotations will follow before the spring semester of the Cancer Biology Core Course.  A Responsible Conduct in Research course bridges the fall and spring semesters.


During the second year and continuing throughout their graduate career, students will take the Cancer Biology and Current Topics Journal Clubs as well as participate in the Student Research Seminar Series.


The Graduate School will mentor and supervise students in order to ensure (i) that any problems/issues are detected early, (ii) that students will enjoy the full benefits and opportunities provided, and (iii) that students are encouraged and supported in their quest to become successful scientists.  The first-year mentor will guide each student's choice of rotation mentors, assess progress, and determine whether there are any underlying problems.  Once a student has chosen a thesis mentor, the School will constitute a thesis advisory committee.  During the second year, students will prepare and defend a thesis proposal.  Finally, with the thesis committee’s approval, the student will prepare a written thesis on his or her original research.  Satisfactory defense of the thesis will result in the granting of the Ph.D. degree.


The Graduate School will not offer a separate M.S. program.  However, advanced students who withdraw from the School in good standing may petition the Executive Committee for award of an M.S. degree, which will require satisfactory completion of the entire first year curriculum and the thesis proposal defense.


The Department has determined that the curriculum proposed meets the standards for curricula in the Commissioner’s regulations.


C. Students.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering anticipates that the program will attract sufficient high quality applications from a large pool of New York City, other U.S., and international students to support an incoming class of ten to 12 students per year, all full-time.  With a projected average completion time of 4.5 to 5 years, it envisions a steady state of about 55 students by September 2011, all full-time.  It based its projection on its experience with other institutions’ graduate students who are pursuing their research in the labs of Memorial Sloan-Kettering faculty and on a poll of the undergraduates who participate in its summer internship program.  Of the survey respondents, 89 percent indicated that they would consider applying to the proposed Graduate School to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer biology.  


The Cancer Biology program is an intense and challenging program that will immerse students in the flow of modern day cancer research.  Therefore only highly qualified, well-prepared students who are motivated to become successful scientists will be admitted.  Applicants will be judged on the basis of their academic credentials, recommendations from mentors, general interest level in science, demonstrated interest in participating in biomedical research, interest in the program, attitude, and ability to get along with others in a research lab environment.  An interview will be a crucial part of the screening process.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering is committed to recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups and to giving them a supportive training environment that will allow them to reach their career goals.  It projects that some 35 percent of the students will be from racial/ethnic minority groups.


The Department has determined that the proposed admission requirements and procedures would meet the relevant standards in the Commissioner’s regulations.


          D. Faculty.  Seventy-eight Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers would constitute the faculty of the Graduate School.  All are full-time at the institution.  All possess terminal degrees in relevant fields, extensive research experience, and experience in the education of students in the tri-institutional programs.  They include leaders in the fields of cancer biology and genetics, genomic integrity, cell signaling and regulation, structural biology, immunology, natural products synthesis, developmental biology, bioinformatics, experimental therapeutics, experimental pathology, and imaging and radiation sciences.  In addition, the clinical faculty is widely acknowledged for their leadership in clinical and epidemiological research and for providing the best cancer care in the nation.  The research faculty attract substantial grant support, averaging nearly $1 million each.  Sixty-nine faculty members are men; nine are women.  Eight are members of racial/ethnic minority groups.    


In its response to the canvass, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory commented that Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s “research faculty are outstanding and boast leaders in many fields of the biological sciences in addition to cancer biology.  Indeed, MSKCC was ranked third among institutions [world-wide] ranked by percentage of highly cited molecular biology and genetics papers, by ScienceWatch . . . .”


Memorial Sloan-Kettering anticipates adding 60 additional research faculty by 2011 and expects that the great majority of them will join the Graduate School faculty.


          The President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, who has held that position since 2000, also would be president of the Graduate School.  He was Director of the National Institutes of Health between 1993 and 1999.  An active researcher and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1989, he also would be one of the faculty members.


          The Department has determined that the proposed faculty would meet the relevant standards in the Commissioner’s regulations.


          E. Resources.  The Memorial Sloan-Kettering campus comprises 12 buildings on three blocks of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, neighboring Rockefeller University and the Cornell University Medical Campus.  The basic and translational research facilities provide about 300,000 net square feet of laboratory space.  The research facilities are continually maintained and updated and a new 21-story research building is under construction.  When it opens and obsolete space is demolished in 2006, the research space will have been increased to about 540,000 net square feet.  In addition, patient-oriented research is conducted primarily in Memorial Hospital and attached buildings.


          The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical Library is a specialized library that focuses on providing access to comprehensive oncology resources and tools.  It has five professional librarians, five paraprofessionals, and two support staff.  The library has a print collection of over 10,000 volumes and provides electronic access to about 100 titles.  It provides print or electronic access to over 1,100 journals.  Students in the proposed program also would have full access to the collections of the libraries of Rockefeller University, the Cornell University Medical Campus, and the Hospital for Special Surgery.  The four institutions share a common on-line library catalog. 


          The peer review team described the equipment of the research labs as “state-of-the-art” and said that the “library and other resources available to the students will be first rate.”


Memorial Sloan-Kettering projects the cost of the proposed program to grow from $1.5 million in the first year to $4.2 million in the fifth.  For the first two years, it will meet those costs from internal resources.  It intends to build a separate endowment of about $45 million for the Graduate School, through fund-raising.  Other anticipated funding would come from an NIH Training Grant and from Bundy Aid.


The Graduate School does not intend to charge tuition; rather, each student would receive a stipend at parity with that provided at the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University (currently $26,420).  After the School’s second year of operation, stipends will be provided from faculty research grants.  In addition, the Graduate School would make travel funds available to students, provide comprehensive health insurance to them and their dependents, and provide subsidized housing in property owned by Memorial Sloan-Kettering. 


For the fiscal year ending in 2003, Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s total operating budget was nearly $1.3 billion, of which about $212 million was for research.  It has invested reserves of $2 billion.  It believes that the development of the endowment for the Graduate School can be achieved since it has averaged more than $110 million in philanthropic support annually over the past ten years.


The Department’s review of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s audited financial statements and of the Graduate School’s projected revenues and expenditures resulted in a finding that the institution is in solid financial condition.  The financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2003 show that it has $2.7 billion in total net assets with $1.9 billion of that in unrestricted net assets.  It has almost $288 million in cash and equivalents and almost $2.0 billion in marketable securities.  In addition, revenues exceeded expenses by $422,719 for the past year.    


The Department has determined that the proposed Graduate School would have resources adequate to support its mission and program, as required by the Commissioner’s regulations.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering has demonstrated a long-standing and on-going commitment to provide financial support, personnel, and facilities to its research efforts.  This commitment can be seen in the founding of the Sloan-Kettering Institute in 1946 and its growth over nearly 60 years; the raising of philanthropic funds to help support research activities of investigators, including 63 endowed chairs; the planned expansion of the research programs over the next several years; and in the decisions to build a major new research building, as well as acquire additional facilities for data management and analysis, and animal research.


F. Program Registration.  In developing the proposal, Memorial Sloan-Kettering engaged a peer review team to visit the institution and review the draft proposal.  The four members of the team, approved in advance by the Department, were from Harvard Medical School, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The Center responded satisfactorily to the team’s recommendations and revised its proposal appropriately.  The Department has determined that the proposed programs, if approved, would meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. 


Planning Review


G. Need.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering believes that there is a strong need of society for the proposed program.  It points out that the pace of modern biological research holds promise for ameliorating the human condition.  New technologies are leading directly to new advances in the diagnosis, classification, monitoring, treatment, control, and prevention of cancer.  Its goal is to train a new cadre of scientists who can exploit these advances and developing fields and apply their training directly to advancing the understanding of cancer.  In its application, Memorial Sloan-Kettering cited the executive summary of a recent survey by the National Cancer Institute to the effect that


The National Cancer Institute supports unique research programs in diverse areas from basic science to the application of new preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions.  Experience has suggested that profound insights often result when knowledge gained in these distinct areas is shared, but natural divisions often impair such communication.


To bridge the historical distinctions in the areas of basic and clinical investigation, NCI is exploring new training modalities for Translational Research.  This is understood to involve the bi-directional transfer of information “between the lab and the clinic.”  The NCI is considering expanding its support for doctoral and postdoctoral training in ways that would develop leadership in translational science.


According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the proposed curriculum will take advantage of a unique horizontal integration between its basic science and its clinical arms and impart to students both the knowledge required for modern biological research and an appreciation of the nature of and challenges in the control of cancer.  The institution expects that the training and approach to science provided will be relevant and broadly applicable to other aspects of human disease and medicine.     


Such a program will provide students with both the basic science training and knowledge of the physiology and treatment of human disease that will ensure the future rapid translation of new basic science advances to the clinic.  The strategic plans of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health have identified a need for such a cadre of researchers.  In addition, both the federal government and the State have commented on the expectation of significant growth in high-skilled fields such as health care and biotechnology.  Therefore, Memorial Sloan-Kettering has confidence that graduates of the proposed program will be in a competitive position to take full opportunity of such expansion.


H. Effect on Other Institutions.  In New York State, 22 institutions offer Ph.D. programs in the discipline area of the Biological Sciences.  They are:


SUNY Albany

SUNY Binghamton

SUNY Buffalo

SUNY Stony Brook

SUNY Health Science Center at


SUNY Health Science Center at


SUNY College of Environmental

Sciences and Forestry

CUNY Graduate School

Albany Medical College

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Columbia University

Cornell University (both the main

campus and the New York City branch


Fordham University

New York Medical College

New York University

North Shore-Long Island Jewish

Graduate School of Molecular Medicine

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Rockefeller University

Saint John’s University

Syracuse University

University of Rochester

Yeshiva University


Memorial Sloan-Kettering believes that the proposed program is fundamentally different from these institutions’ programs.  It reviewed the curricula offered by the 22 institutions and found that the most similar were those offered by NYU and the North Shore-LIJ Graduate School of Molecular Medicine.  It states that NYU’s program has “neither a significant translational nor clinical component.”  It notes that North Shore requires an M.D. degree for admission, not a baccalaureate.


Nine institutions responded to a canvass of all colleges and universities in New York City and all doctorate-granting institutions in the State.  Six of the respondents had no objection to the proposal.  The other three – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, The Rockefeller University, and the State University at Binghamton – supported it.  Rockefeller said, “The program is exceedingly well-conceived, has strong and visionary leadership, and will add to the vitality of the training environment in our neighborhood.  We therefore support the petition for a new graduate program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering with the greatest possible enthusiasm.”  Cold Spring Harbor said, “The program can be nothing but an asset to graduate education in New York State and the nation as a whole . . . .”