"Inflammatory processes are at the root of many diseases. If we have a better understanding of these processes, we will be able to treat diseases as diverse as atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes."

Sergio A. Lira, MD, PhD
Director of the Immunology Institute, Leona M. and Harry B. Hemsley Charitable Trust Professor of Immunology, and Professor of Medicine (Clinical Immunology)

Nearly all human diseases have an immune basis as a component of their pathology. Sergio A. Lira, MD, PhD, has spent his entire career trying to understand the complexities of the immune response — a system he believes is the key to treating a host of common chronic diseases, from asthma to diabetes to HIV.

As Director of the Immunology Institute, Dr. Lira fosters interdisciplinary, translational research in immunology, immunologic diseases, and transplantation. Under their direction, Mount Sinai scientists and clinicians have gained international recognition in such areas as primary immunodeficiency, mucosal immunity, inflammatory bowel disease, allergic diseases, and liver transplantation.

Dr. Lira has been widely praised for his pioneering scientific research, groundbreaking publications, and educational leadership. An award-winning educator, he is the author of more than 100 published articles, most recently on the contribution of chemokines to the trafficking of leukocytes into the intestine during homeostasis and disease.

Dr. Lira’s lab pioneered the use of genetic approaches to study the function of an important set of immune molecules known as chemokines. His early studies were the first to show that chemokines had a profound impact on leukocyte trafficking to the brain, the lung, and the thymus. Subsequent work from his group revealed an important role for chemokines in autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes and thyroiditis.

Other contributions from his lab include studies on the mechanisms of lymphoid neogenesis and on the biological function of molecules encoded by viruses that mimic chemokines. In particular, his lab contributed to the discovery that the chemokine receptor encoded by herpes virus 8 is an oncogene, providing important insights into the mechanisms leading to the development of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Dr. Lira’s lab has also made important contributions to the study of IL-23, a cytokine that affects development of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

Dr. Lira’s expertise is recognized worldwide. He has presented at conferences throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia and has organized international meetings, including the 2003 Keystone Symposium on Chemokines and the 2006 Gordon Research Conference on Chemotactic Cytokines.

In addition to his responsibilities at Mount Sinai, Dr. Lira is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union. He was elected to the Henry Kunkel Society in 2006 and to the Association of American Physicians in 2008. Dr. Lira’s contributions have been recognized with an Inventor’s Award and an Impact Award from the Schering-Plough Research Institute and the President’s Award from Bristol-Myers Squibb and the International Society of Endocrinology.

A native of South America, Dr. Lira received his medical degree from the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazil and his PhD in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego. He completed his postdoctoral training at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey. Prior to joining Mount Sinai he was Director of the Department of Immunology at the Schering-Plough Research Institute. Dr. Lira joined Mount Sinai in 2002 as the Irene Diamond Associate Professor of Immunology.