New York, NY –April 10, 2014 – Seasonal influenza causes approximately 30,000 deaths yearly in the US, despite the availability of vaccines and antivirals. During pandemic years, these numbers can increase significantly. To insure pandemic preparedness, the National Institutes of Health has awarded $26 million to five institutions, including the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The multimillion dollar award is part of an international collaboration of Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) network.
Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, Director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, will serve as principal investigator for the Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis (CRIP), one of the five centers.
To head off flu pandemics, researchers at Mount Sinai will look at human exposure¬ airborne of direct contact transmission, and the transmission of the virus between animals and human. "We are thrilled to be part of an international collaboration that will collect samples from around the globe," said Dr.García-Sastre. "Researchers from the far corners of the world will send samples collected from animals with a swab and transport them to laboratories at Mount Sinai and other institutions." (A full list of institutions participating in the contract appears at the bottom of this release.)
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai team is set to conduct animal surveillance studies, including surveys of marine animals and wild birds in the Atlantic region. This information will shed light on virus evolution in animal reservoirs. Basic research will be performed at Mount Sinai's microbiology and genetics laboratories, as well as labs within this network. The focus of the research will include analyses of virus-host interactions, with the goal of determining why some influenza virus types cause more serious disease than others.
"What we hope to provide is basic understanding of the biology and transmission of novel influenza viruses so that the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may develop the best countermeasures when an outbreak occurs."
Dr. García-Sastre added, "We are grateful to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [part of the National Institutes of Health] for its generous support of this work. We hope that with new knowledge, better vaccines to prevent transmission may be developed."
Other members of the Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, include Peter Palese, PhD, Professor and Chairman of Microbiology, Megan Shaw PhD, Ana Fernandez-Sesma PhD, Nicole Bouvier MD, Harm van Bakel PhD, Florian Krammer PhD, Randy Albrecht PhD, and Melissa Uccellini PhD. CRIP collaborators also include investigators from the following institutions: University of Maryland; University of Wisconsin-Madison; MIT; University of California, Davis; University of Alaska, Anchorage; Erasmus Medical Center, The Netherlands; University of Cambridge, UK; Catholic University of Chile; and Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria, in Madrid, Spain.
The CEIRS Network will have a worldwide reach, with established or planned collaborations at more than two dozen sites in the United States, Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia.
The Mount Sinai team previously received a 2007 award from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. With that award, the team characterized the pandemic H1N1 virus of 2009.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12-minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.