Forget something? NY’s life-sci panel (mostly) stiffs LI

Oversight committee: Although his office often champions Long Island's life-sciences efforts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new statweide Life Science Advisory Board is light on Island representation.

Eyeing a “vibrant life-sciences ecosystem” across the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday the launch of a new Life Science Advisory Board – but the high-profile panel largely overlooks life-sciences-heavy Long Island.

Although Albany would seem to consider the Island a hotbed of biotech and health-science research and commercialization, none of the region’s major research institutions or life-science enterprises are represented on the new LSAB.

So, no one to share updates from the Long Island Bioscience Hub or Stony Brook University’s Center for Biotechnology; no representation from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory or Brookhaven National Laboratory, from Stony Brook Medicine or Hofstra’s Zucker School of Medicine or the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research – each with a claim to world-class life-sciences status, or at least a dog in the fight.

A Columbia University professor of diabetes research, the executive director of the University at Buffalo’s NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, NYU Langone’s vice dean and chief medical officer and Rockefeller University President Richard Lifton all made the cut.

The board even includes several members from outside New York State, including Anthony Coles, CEO of Massachusetts-based Yumanity Therapeutics (which collaborates frequently with the New York Stem Cell Foundation), and David Carmel, head of immunotherapy for San Francisco-based Atara Biotherapeutics (which maintains a New York City office).

But while Cuomo’s own Regional Economic Development Council initiative gives Long Island priority life-sciences treatment, thanks primarily to the contributions of researchers at institutions like CSHL and the Feinstein Institute, none of the region’s major life-sciences facilities are represented on the new LSAB.

Seymour Liebman: No man is an Island.

Long Island’s sole representative on the 15-member advisory board is Seymour Liebman, executive vice president of Melville-based Canon USA.

Despite the apparent LI underrepresentation, the panel does pack a serious life-sciences punch. They might not know Farmingville from Farmingdale, but the board members are “leading experts in academia, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and venture capital,” according to the governor’s office.

Their primary mission will be to advise state lawmakers on the execution of the $600 million-plus Life Science Initiative the governor announced in 2016 – Cuomo’s grand plan to form a world-class, jobs-creating life-science cluster across the Empire State.

The Life Science Initiative is designed to strengthen New York’s life-science economy through enhanced tax incentives, grants for wet-lab and innovation spaces, investment capital for early-stage companies and matching funds for private-sector partnerships. The idea is to “support scientists translating their research into new startups, attracting new venture capital investment to New York State and ushering in the next generation of advanced technologies,” according to Cuomo’s office.

The Life Science Advisory Board “will provide invaluable input as New York State continues to build a world-leading hub for this emerging sector,” Cuomo said Thursday.

“New York’s life-science industry is expanding like never before, creating jobs, spurring new advancements and research, and growing our economy,” the governor added.

Also joining the 15-member LSAB are Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer at Connecticut-based Pfizer; Kevin Hobert, CEO of Connecticut-based Carestream Health; Robert Urban, global head of New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson Innovation; Russell Carson, cofounder of NYC-based Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe; and Amy Schulman, entrepreneur partner at Massachusetts investment firm Polaris Partners, among others.

But the board seems to have forgotten Albany’s own stake in Long Island’s life-science industries. New research facilities for SBU and the Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute were included in the LIREDC’s top-performing 2017 funding package, while tax-incentive development zones were created at SBU and Farmingdale State College’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park through the Life Science Initiative.

Still, the megawatt advisory panel will further the initiative’s mission to attract emerging life-sciences enterprises, thereby creating thousands of good-paying jobs in all regions – including Long Island – and otherwise bolstering the state economy, according to Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Albany’s Empire State Development Corp.

“New York’s concerted efforts to catalyze the life-science industry are leveraging new investment and advancement and creating the 21st century jobs of tomorrow,” Zemsky said Thursday.