What’s New

Leon Levy Fellowship in Neuroscience Renewed For $1.92 Million

Portraits of Dr. Jacqueline Burré, Dr. Alon Seifen and  Dr. Brendon Watson

With a new $1.92 million grant, the Leon Levy Foundation is renewing the fellowship  at Weill Cornell through 2019 and doubling the length of the program, expanding the term from one year to two.  The fellowship provides these burgeoning physicians and scientists with funds to develop and advance their research projects and publish their findings in journals — all of which lay the foundation for additional financial support down the road. They also get the opportunity to network with other neuroscientists during an annual symposium sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation.  “This fellowship gives junior faculty a year or two to establish their laboratory and develop some preliminary results so that they can go to the National Institutes of Health or other funding institutions and get a full-fledged grant, which is what really gets the science going,”said Dr. Costantino Iadecola, director of the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Anne Parrish Titzell Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell, who leads the fellowship program at the medical college.

Pictured above 2015 Leon Levy fellows:  Drs. Jacqueline Burré, center, Alon Seifan, left, and Brendon Watson, right


Weill Cornell Researchers Make Important Discovery

Blaho, Victoria

Dr. Victoria Blaho, an instructor in pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and a former Leon Levy Fellow, is first author of a study published June 8, 2015 in Nature. The study makes an important discovery about high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it transports fat molecules out of blood vessels, protecting against stroke and heart disease. Dr. Blaho, along with senior investigator Dr. Timothy Hla of Weill Cornell and researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University, found that a lipid molecule called sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) that is bound to HDL suppresses the formation of T and B immune cells in the bone marrow. In doing so, HDL and S1P block these cells from launching an abnormal immune response that leads to damaging inflammation, a hallmark of many disorders including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and neuroinflammatory disease, such as multiple sclerosis. “Blood HDL levels are associated with heart and brain health — the higher the HDL in blood, the less risk one has for cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and dementia,” Dr. Hla said. “The corollary is that the lower the HDL, the higher the risk of these diseases.”

Leon Levy Trustees Explore the BBG’s New Discovery Garden

BBG Shelby Liz and Scot in DG

Shelby White and Elizabeth Moynihan visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s nearly completed new Discovery Garden in May. More than four times its original size and full of exiting plant display and interactive exhibits for kids and families, it opens on June 6  with “Frolic” a public program and free day. The Discovery Garden is one of a series of new projects within BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century made possible with leadership support from the Leon Levy Foundation. Construction on a new Water Garden starts immediately after, followed by phase 3 of the Water Conservation project and a new Woodland Garden.  Shown in the photo with Ms. White and Ms. Moynihan is Scot Medbuy, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

2015 Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellows Symposium

2015 Neuro Symp

On Thursday, April 30, 2015, the Leon Levy Foundation held its 4th Annual Leon Levy Fellows in Neuroscience Symposium.  Hosted by NYU Langone Medical Center, the event was attended by current Leon Levy Fellows as well as their mentors, former fellows, and other affiliated principal investigators from across five participating research institutions: Columbia University Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NYU Langone Medical Center, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College. The plenary talk was delivered by Richard Tsien, D.Phil., the Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience, Chair of Neuroscience & Physiology, and Director of the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center. The Symposium offers a unique opportunity to have experts in the field meet, present and discuss the latest in neuroscience research.

Leon Levy Fellow Featured In A Documentary


Malawian Moses Mkumpha, who in 2014-15 studied conservation at the Conservation Center of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in a program funded by the Leon Levy Foundation, is the subject of a new documentary made by CCTV and shown in Africa on April 5, 2015.

As the only trained cultural conservator in Malawi, Mkumpha was featured in a “Faces of Africa” series. It shows him, following his return to Malawi from New York, traveling his country, taking measure of its famous rock paintings, Stone Age implements, fossils and other natural history and cultural heritage artifacts so that he can devise plans to preserve them. But many obstacles stand in his way, including thieves at a slaving fort and graffiti vandals.

Watch the documentary here.

Digital Archives Project Recognized With NEH Grant


The New York Philharmonic has won a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help support its multi-year initiative to digitize the Orchestra’s archives. The NEH grant affirms the humanities value of the collection, which dates to 1842, and recognizes the archives’ importance. Upon its completion in 2018, the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives will contain more than 3 million pages of correspondence, operation files, financial ledgers, minutes from business and artistic meetings, marked scores, printed programs, and press clippings. It will provide online open access to nearly 130 years of cultural, political, and social history through the lens of one of the United States’ oldest cultural institutions. This is the Philharmonic’s first NEH grant in 30 years. (Pictured at left is a notice from a 1915 program, from the archives, asking women who were knitting during performances to aid the war effort to refrain.)

NYC Audubon Introduces D-Bird Webpage


Each year, hundreds of millions of North American birds die after colliding with glass in buildings, many studies show. For migratory birds, urban areas are especially treacherous. Project Safe Flight, a program of the New York City Audubon supported by the Leon Levy Foundation, aims to prevent collisions, rescue injured birds and count those that have perished to document trouble sites that may be able to take mitigation measures. Now NYC Audubon has introduced a dedicated webpage, D-Bird, that anyone who finds a dead or injured bird can use to report it. via computer or a smartphone. Contributions to D-Bird will make New York City safer for birds.


2015: IAA Reveals Two Groundbreaking Discoveries

IAA Skull

A 55,000 year old human skull was uncovered in the “Dan David Manot Cave in Galilee by a team of researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. This find marks the oldest modern human remains outside Africa.

The largest collection of medieval gold coins ever found in Israel were unveiled in February, dating back about a thousand years.  The find was near the port city of Caesarea and consists of about 2,000 coins, weighing about 13 pounds.  The coins provide “fascinating and rare historical evidence” from the Fatimid era in the 10th and 11th centuries.


Leon Levy Foundation Awards Grant to Mt. Sinai to Establish a Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship


The Foundation has awarded a three year grant beginning in 2015  to establish a Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. The Principal Investigator for the program will be Dr. Eric J. Nestler, Director of the Friedman Brain Institute, Nash Family Professor and Chair, Department of Neuroscience.

Richard Holmes To Give Annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture


Richard Holmes, the award-winning British author known in particular for his biographies of the Romantic poets, will deliver the 7th annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture on Sept. 23. A cornerstone program of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, the lecture, which is open to the public, offers an opportunity for a renowned biographer to discuss the craft of biography. Holmes, in addition to his definitive volumes on Shelley and Coleridge, has written Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer; Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer; Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage; The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science and, most recently, Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. Reviewing that book in The New York Times, Paul Elie noted, “No writer alive and working in English today writes better about the past than Holmes.” The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 23, at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

For more information and to register, go here.