NIH Establishes Center of Excellence for Influenza Research at Mount Sinai

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced today that Mount Sinai School of Medicine is a new Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance.

NIAID is awarding $23 million per year for seven years to establish six Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance around the country. Mount Sinai will help expand NIAIDs influenza research as the only recognized Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance in New York City.

Mount Sinai welcomes this high honor bestowed by NIAID for our influenza virus research and recognition of our teams hard work, said Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, principal investigator for research at Mount Sinais Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance, Professor of Microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. We look forward to building upon our past research on the influenza virus, helping the federal government research findings in order to control and weaken the impact of influenza and stop the danger of a deadly influenza pandemic.

The Mount Sinai Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance has been named the Center for Research in Influenza Pathogenesis (CRIP). Mount Sinai researchers Adolfo García-Sastre and Peter Palese, in collaboration with Daniel Perez, at University of Maryland, and Ron Fouchier, at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, will continue to conduct molecular studies to identify influenza virus genes associated with the development of disease, the adaptability of flu viruses in birds and mammals, and the transmission of flu viruses between different hosts.

Mount Sinai is globally renowned for its research on the 1918 flu virus. The goal of Mount Sinais research is to gain greater understanding of the virus in order to use this knowledge to predict future pandemics and develop novel vaccines and treatments. In 2005, researchers reconstructed the 1918 flu virus using reverse genetics, a technique developed by Dr. García-Sastre and Dr. Palese, chairman of the Department of Microbiology at Mount Sinai. In 2006, researchers also discovered that the reconstructed 1918 flu virus in a mouse model replicates so fast that it triggers a very strong immune system response that fails to protect animals from severe lung disease and death. This study gave insight into how highly pathogenic influenza viruses, such as the 1918 flu, cause disease.

Further research in 2007, showed modest changes in the 1918 flu viruss hemagglutinin receptor binding site -- a molecular structure critical for the spread of infection -- stopped viral transmissions in ferrets. This recent study could have significant clinical implications in helping scientists develop ways to break the disease cycle and possibly help reduce the risk for a potential pandemic and illness.

The six Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance awards include: St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital (Memphis), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), Emory University (Atlanta), Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York City), and University of Rochester (Rochester, N.Y.).

Source: Mount SinaiHospital