Accomplished Scientist and Entrepreneur Selected to Lead Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute

Pictured: Michael Foley

Sanders Director of the Tri-I TDI Michael Foley

Michael A. Foley, PhD, has been selected to lead the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, Inc. (Tri-I TDI), a pioneering collaboration of Weill Cornell Medical College, The Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that is designed to expedite early-stage drug discovery into novel treatments for patients.

Dr. Foley’s title is the Sanders Director of Tri-I TDI and Director of its Sanders Innovation and Education Initiative, in recognition of the $15 million gift from Lewis and Ali Sanders to help establish the Institute. An accomplished chemist and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of industry and academic experience, Dr. Foley is scientific co-founder of four companies and one academic institute and has placed 12 single-agent or combination drugs into clinical development. He was most recently the Director of the Chemical Biology Platform at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, which successfully established over 150 high throughput screening development collaborations under his leadership.

Dr. Foley previously worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline, and obtained his PhD in chemistry at Harvard.

“We are fortunate to have recruited Dr. Foley to spearhead the Tri-I TDI,” said Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Dr. Craig B. Thompson. “His scientific expertise and proven ability to shape drug discovery initiatives will be an asset to the Tri-I TDI’s development.”

The Tri-I TDI was formally launched in October and formed its first collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd., a global research-based pharmaceutical company with a strong record of bringing new medicines to market, to develop small-molecule drugs. The Institute, which represents a novel partnership of academic institutions working together to more effectively translate basic research discoveries into the clinic, will focus on the early stages of developing compounds that make possible all-important “proof of concept” studies – those that increase the likelihood that targeting a specific biologic pathway can favorably alter the course of a disease.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Foley to the Tri-I TDI,” said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “Dr. Foley’s experience in academia and industry and distinguished track record of moving early-stage compounds through drug development are a perfect match for the Tri-I TDI’s ambitions of accelerating bench discoveries into effective therapies for patients.”

Initially Tri-I TDI will focus on the development of small-molecule therapeutic agents and molecular probes.  Over time, its work will expand to include biologic agents, especially monoclonal antibodies, and molecular imaging agents. Projects that will be tackled could range from addressing the developing world’s most serious and deadly diseases —from Alzheimer’s, cancer, HIV, heart disease and obesity, to tuberculosis and malaria – and neglected or “orphan” diseases that afflict small numbers of people.

“Tri-I TDI is about enabling our scientists to move their discoveries towards clinical application. An important component of this will be building links between academia and industry, and with his extensive experience in both environments Dr. Foley is an ideal choice to serve as the institute’s founding director,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University. “His entrepreneurial skill and deep background in chemical biology will ensure that Tri-I TDI develops into the groundbreaking initiative we have envisioned.”

The Tri-I TDI is an independent, nonprofit corporation overseen by a Board of Directors (BOD). The Institute will select research projects based on recommendations of a Scientific Advisory Board that hold the greatest scientific promise and present the most innovative hypotheses.

“I am thrilled to be part of this pioneering approach to drug discovery,” said Michael A. Foley, PhD, Sanders Director of the Tri-I TDI. “The structure of the Tri-I TDI has enormous potential to not only bridge the gap between academia and the pharmaceutical industry, but to take burgeoning ideas and rapidly adapt them into real, tangible treatments that can benefit patients now.”

The Tri-I TDI will leverage institutional centers and facilities on the three campuses, including the Experimental Therapeutics Center and Technology Development Fund at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Medicinal Chemistry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the High-Throughput Screening Resource Center at Rockefeller University, while continuing to form industry partnerships with various pharmaceutical companies to further advance research investigations.

About The Rockefeller University

Founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1901, The Rockefeller University was this nation’s first biomedical research institution. Hallmarks of the university include a research environment that provides scientists with the support they need to do imaginative science and a truly international graduate program that is unmatched for the freedom and resources it provides students to develop their capacities for innovative research. The Rockefeller University Hospital, founded in 1910 as the first center for clinical research in the United States, remains a place where researchers combine laboratory investigations with bedside observations to provide a scientific basis for disease detection, prevention and treatment. Since the institution’s founding, Rockefeller University has been the site of many important scientific breakthroughs. Rockefeller scientists, for example, established that DNA is the chemical basis of heredity, identified the weight-regulating hormone leptin, discovered blood groups, showed that viruses can cause cancer, founded the modern field of cell biology, worked out the structure of antibodies, devised the AIDS “cocktail” drug therapy, and developed methadone maintenance for people addicted to heroin. Throughout Rockefeller’s history, 24 scientists associated with the university have received the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine and chemistry, and 21 scientists associated with the university have been honored with the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award. Five Rockefeller University scientists have been named MacArthur Foundation Fellows, and 20 have garnered the National Medal of Science. Currently, the university’s award-winning faculty includes five Nobel laureates, seven Lasker Award winners and three recipients of the National Medal of Science. Thirty-four of the faculty are elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. For more information, go to

About Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University’s medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and most recently, the world’s first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit