Indian American couple donate $13.75 million to Stony Brook University for cancer research

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Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging advances.

Lalit and Kavita Bahl
Lalit and Kavita Bahl

Stony Brook University held a dedication ceremony earlier this month for the new Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging advances, a new, one-of-a-kind translational research center for cancer, made possible by two back-to-back gifts from Kavita and Lalit Bahl totaling $13.75 million.

Stony Brook University. Located in New York, held a dedication ceremony for the official opening of the new program on December 1, in its first laboratory space in the Health Sciences tower.

The Bahl family’s vision is to elevate Stony Brook Medicine to the cutting-edge of personalized cancer research, diagnostic imaging breakthroughs and evolving individualized cancer care far beyond where it currently exists, according to a press release.

Metabolomics is an emerging field in cancer investigation with the most promising approach to individualized cancer treatment because uncovering metabolic pathways is a key to unlocking their influence on the development and proliferation of cancer cells.

Under the guidance of Yusuf Hannun, MD, and Lina Obeid, MD, the Bahl Center brings together Stony Brook researchers in the fields of metabolomics, cancer biology, medical imaging, and computational oncology.

Dr. Hannun, Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, is a renowned physician-scientist whose career has spanned more than 30 years as a cancer clinician and researcher investigating the lipid mediators of cancer cell signaling. He has published more than 500 scientific papers, edited seven books and holds seven patents. Dr. Obeid, Dean for Research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, manages approximately $75 million in research grants and is a nationally renowned researcher in cancer biology who has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 20 years.

Drs. Hannun and Obeid project this one-of-kind Center will bring cancer research and discoveries for prevention, diagnosis and treatment to levels not seen before and potentially be a national model to follow.

With increasing imaging and metabolomics technologies and additional expertise, the Center will break new ground in cancer research and care by: identifying diagnostic cancer biomarkers and monitoring them during treatment; using molecular analyses to create innovative radiotracers for translational imaging studies and clinical trials; discovering new cellular targets for cancer treatment; identifying complex metabolic pathways in the cancer cells of patients, enabling additional targeted and individualized therapy; using imaging technologies to enable clinicians to track a patient’s individual response to therapy; determining how epidemiological and lifestyle factors such as nutrition, obesity, and tobacco use are linked to cancer risk as a way to devise preventive measures.

The Bahls launched the imaging center bearing their name with an initial gift of $3.5 million for the purchase of a cyclotron – an instrument used to create novel tracers for PET scanning, a technique that allows molecular imaging within the human body. They then followed up with a new $10.25 million pledge which enables the Stony Brook Cancer Center to conduct revolutionary research and recruit top faculty experts in all related fields.

During Phase I, the Center will recruit an oncologic imaging researcher, a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) researcher and a Magnetic Resonance (MR) spectroscopy researcher. During Phase II the Center will expand through a new faculty hire in the area of Experimental Therapeutics, and additional research funding.

“These gifts establish the Stony Brook University Cancer Center as home to a revolutionary new metabolomics and imaging center devoted to cancer research which will lead to translational breakthroughs,” said Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr, in a statement. “The totality of these two incredible gifts from Kavita and Lalit Bahl, both generous and visionary, will have a decades-long impact on cancer research, medical treatments and patient care. At the hub of all this is our Cancer Center — connecting a multi-disciplinary team that spans across main campus and the Medicine campus.”

The Bahl gift will allow the Cancer Center to recruit four new cancer researchers who will bring additional expertise for these goals to be met. The first recruitment will be that of an oncologic imaging researcher, with recruitment in other areas such as experimental therapeutics to follow.

The Center will also involve collaboration with leading university faculty in areas such as the computational sciences and biomedical informatics to advance metabolomics and imaging research for cancer.

“We are very interested in supporting cancer research because my family has been so greatly affected by cancer,” said Lalit Bahl, in a statement. “My mother, grandmother, sister, and many, many relatives all lost their lives to cancer,” he said, “and I would like to see this not happen to other people. We believe research is necessary to improve treatment and greatly reduce the death rate of these terrible diseases.”

“Drs. Hannun and Obeid have a very long record of research in cancer, and we are thrilled to be able to support their work at Stony Brook,” said Kavita Bahl, in a statement. “Our hope is that metabolomics and imaging research will result in significant progress toward finding new treatments.”

Current Stony Brook University School of Medicine laboratories and other University scientific laboratories will conduct research for the Center. Permanent physical space for the Center and its laboratories will be located in the Medical and Research Translation (MART) building upon opening of the MART in 2018.