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Home SCIENCE Stem Cell Research Crusader Susan L. Solomon Dies at 71

Stem Cell Research Crusader Susan L. Solomon Dies at 71

Susan L. Solomon, whose frustration over delays in finding a cure for her teenage son’s type 1 diabetes led her to establish what became a leading independent laboratory for stem cell research, died September 8 at her home. in Amagansett, New York. She was 71 years old.

The cause was ovarian cancer, according to her husband, Paul Goldberger, a former architecture critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

In 2005, Ms. Solomon left a successful career as a lawyer, new media entrepreneur and management consultant to join Mary Elizabeth Bunzel, a former journalist, in founding the Stem Cell Foundation of New Yorkof which Ms. Solomon was Executive Director for 17 years and recently resigned.

The foundation’s goal is to accelerate cures for major diseases through stem cell research, and its laboratory, the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute, on West 54th Street in Manhattan, is described below. itself as the largest independent stem cell research laboratory in the country. has been credited venturing against Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative diseases and vision loss, as well as against mitochondrial disease in pregnant women, which can cause growth retardation, kidney disease or neurological disorders in their offspring.

Ms. Solomon and Ms. Bunzel started the foundation in response to the refusal of the administration of President George W. Bush to make a significant investment in stem cell research. Their hope was that stem cells, basic cells that can generate new cells with specialized functions, could be transformed into cells that produce insulin and thus help people with type 1 diabetes. Such a patient’s pancreas does not produce enough insulin on its own to help the body convert blood sugar into energy.

Stem cell research became a political issue for the Bush White House because the cells were originally collected only from fertilized embryos, which many social conservatives consider to be human lives. Some private research organizations also shied away from stem cell research at the time, fearing that they might jeopardize their funding from the federal government.

Ms. Solomon first envisioned the New York Stem Cell Foundation in her kitchen after her mother died of cancer and her son developed type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition that required her to constantly monitor her blood sugar levels and injected insulin.

His goal was to accelerate advances in medical research into treatments or cures that were readily available to patients. “She envisioned the impossible and she made it possible,” said Dr. Roy Geronemus, chairman of the foundation’s board.

The foundation has grown into an institution with an annual budget of $40 million and more than 114 employees, including 45 full-time scientists, as well as its own laboratory. He has also overseen grants that support researchers from other institutions.

As CEO, Ms. Solomon helped raise more than $400 million for stem cell research, beginning with early contributions from former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; investor Stanley Druckenmiller and his wife, Fiona; and a foundation run by hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, who died last month.

Mrs. Solomon told the newspaper medicinefuture.com in 2012 that, in helping to found the organization, she was motivated in part by “a giant gap between the work being done in academic institutions and the delivery of pills and treatments on the commercial side.”

“We as a small organization could never provide the funds that the government can,” he said. “But what we can do is create a pathway, resources, grant programs and a lab, and lead the research. We are providing the proof of concept, so that when public input and public funding are available, that work can be scaled up.”

Susan Lynn Solomon was born on August 23, 1951 in Brooklyn. Her father Seymour founded Vanguard Records with her brother Maynard. Her mother, Ruth (Katz) Solomon, was a concert pianist and manager.

After graduating from the Fieldston School in the Bronx, Ms. Solomon earned a bachelor’s degree in history from New York University in 1975 and a law degree from Rutgers in 1978.

Her eclectic career began at the New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, where she helped bring an employment discrimination case on behalf of women who said they were denied the opportunity to become New York City firefighters.

She left the law firm in 1981 to become counsel and director of business affairs for Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment. She later worked for United Satellite Communications; CBS Movies; Sotheby’s, where she was CEO of her first effort to create an online auction platform; and Lancit Media, a producer of children’s television programming, where she was also CEO. In 2000, she established and directed Solomon Partners LLC to provide strategic management consulting.

Her 1968 marriage to Gary Hirsh, the drummer for the band Country Joe and the Fish, ended in divorce. She married Mr. Goldberger in 1980.

In addition to her husband, who is now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a professor of design and architecture at Parsons School of Design and the New School, Ms. Solomon is survived by three children, Adam Hirsh, from her first marriage, and Ben and Alex Goldberger; and six grandchildren.

She never gave up hope that researchers would one day develop a treatment for the disease her son Ben has been dealing with for three decades, since he was 9 years old. She is now the executive editor of Time magazine.

“I am not going to rest until we find a cure for type 1 diabetes,” Ms. Solomon told The Wall Street Journal in 2016. “It will happen in my lifetime. I think so.”


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