"Infectious diseases live in a world without borders posing local and global public health threats. How we and the international community respond to these threats is critical and supports the emerging dogma of one world, one health."

Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD
Director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute, Fishberg Chair and Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), and Professor of Microbiology

In the field of infectious diseases, few scientists are as universally known as Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD. A pioneering scientist, Dr. García-Sastre has revolutionized our understanding of virology. Building on Mount Sinai’s internationally recognized expertise in RNA virus research, the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute was founded to respond to newly emerging diseases like SARS, H1N1, and West Nile virus and to deconstruct the molecular mechanics behind influenza, HIV, hepatitis C, and dengue and Ebola viruses.

The Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute has a number of multi-investigator, federally funded projects that include the Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis (CRIP), Northeast Biodefense Center (NBC), as well as program project grants to investigate HIV, topical microbicides, and pandemic influenza. Dr. García-Sastre and his team are currently studying viral specificity; infection patterns, viral protein functions, and what structural features of the virus dictate the type of cells the virus infects. They are also determining viral pathogenicity and how host response can alter disease.

In 1999, Dr. García-Sastre and Peter Palese, PhD, the Horace W. Goldsmith Professor and Chair of Microbiology, developed reverse genetics, a technique that enabled them to recreate the influenza virus from recombinant DNA. The work paved the way for the insertion of foreign genes into these and other related viruses, creating any desired mutation and the generation of viruses that can function as better vaccines. Reverse genetics technology helped advance influenza vaccine development and laid the groundwork for a study examining the 1918 Spanish flu virus. Working with Dr. Palese again, Dr. García-Sastre and his team used reverse genetics to reconstruct the deadly virus so they could investigate what had made this particular strain so virulent decades ago. The research was published in Science and earned a Paper of the Year award from the prestigious journal The Lancet in 2005.

Dr. García-Sastre’s research in influenza began during his postdoctoral training when he developed, for the first time, strategies for the expression of foreign antigens by a negative-strand RNA virus. For the past 20 years, his research interests have focused on the molecular biology of influenza viruses and other negative-strand RNA viruses.

Dr. García-Sastre now serves as the principal investigator for the Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis — one of five National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. In addition, he is a co-leader of the basic research component on Viral Therapeutics and Pathogenesis of the Northeast Biodefense Center, which is funded by NIAID and involves the collaboration of more than 20 academic institutions.

Dr. García-Sastre has been a co-organizer of the international course on viral vectors, sponsored by the Federation of European Biochemical Societies, and of the first Research Conference on Orthomyxoviruses, sponsored by the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza.

Dr. García-Sastre received his PhD in virology and biochemistry from the University of Salamanca in Spain. He first came to Mount Sinai as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Palese’s laboratory. After completing his postdoctoral work in 1995, he joined the staff as Research Assistant Professor and rose up the ranks to become Professor of Microbiology. He has received fellowships from NATO, the Fulbright Program, and the American Academy of Microbiology.