Precision Immunology Institute at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (PrIISM)

COVID-19

Read more about our research and clinical efforts here.

The Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine (PrIISM) is located within the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Researchers at PrIISM are involved in COVID-19-related research efforts including studying the interactions of SARS-CoV-2 with the immune system, understanding the immunopathological effects of the virus, and developing novel treatment options and vaccine strategies against the virus.

Investigators with a major focus in COVID-19 include:

Nina Bhardwaj

Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD is an immunologist who has made seminal contributions to human dendritic cell biology, specifically with respect to their isolation, biology, antigen presenting function, and use as vaccine adjuvants in humans. She is the Director of Immunotherapy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and holds the Ward Coleman Chair in Cancer Research. Dr. Bhardwaj brings expertise in human immunology and a variety of immune therapies, having developed Toll Like Receptor (TLR) agonist- and dendritic cell-based vaccines for the treatment of both cancer and infection in several Investigator-Initiated studies. Dr. Bhardwaj is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians, a recipient of the Doris Duke Distinguished Scientist Award and was named one of the Scientific American Magazine’s Top 50 Researchers, receiving the Award for Medical Research in 2004. She received the Fred W. Alt Award for new discoveries in Immunology in 2015 from The Cancer Research Institute. Dr. Bhardwaj is a senior editor of the AACR Cancer Immunology Research journal, senior editor for Frontiers in Immunology and consulting editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation. She has also served on NIH Study Sections and multiple advisory councils. Dr. Bhardwaj was formerly chair of the Cancer Immunology Steering Committee of the AACR. Dr. Bhardwaj has also successfully acquired multiple federal and foundation grants and has authored over 200 publications.

Area(s) of Focus:
Cancer Immunology 

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Brian Brown, PhD

Brian Brown, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and the Associate Director of the Precision Immunology Institute (PrIISM) at Mount Sinai. His research is aimed at identifying factors that control immunity and tolerance, and utilizing this information for developing therapeutic strategies that can direct immune responses. He has helped identify several factors involved in the regulation of dendritic cell development and function, including a novel microRNA and receptor tyrosine kinase axis. His lab also has a strong emphasis in the generation of new technologies for experimental and therapeutic applications. Dr. Brown developed a novel gene targeting technology, which is widely used for enhancing vector and virus-based drugs in applications ranging from the treatment of genetic diseases to cancer therapy to viral vaccines. His lab also developed the first genome-wide technology to measure miRNA activity at single cell resolution, and aided in the invention of an improved method for deep sequencing small RNAs. Recently, they generated a new technology, called the Jedi, to probe the interactions between T cells and tissues at a granular level, and to learn how cancer cells evade immunity. 

Area(s) of Focus:
Cancer Immunology 

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Benjamin Chen, MD, PhD

The Chen laboratory studies how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) exploits immune cell interactions to promote viral dissemination. HIV is a chronic and incurable infection of the immune system that targets the helper CD4 T cells. Our group has studied how HIV induces unique cell-cell adhesions between HIV infected and uninfected CD4 T cells called virological synapses (VS). These contacts induce virus production and facilitate transmission through incompletely characterized pathways. Our live cell imaging studies have uncovered dynamic cellular processes that contribute to VS. VS promote viral diversity and evasion from humoral immune responses and thus are critical to consider in HIV vaccine development. We have also found that other synapses between HIV-infected T cells and non-immune cells, such as those in the kidney can cause end organ pathology known as HIV nephropathy. In addition, we are learning how HIV alters and exploits immune cell migration using advanced intravital imaging approaches in mice engrafted with human immune cells—so called humanized mice. Humanized mouse HIV infection models provide a system to study actively and latently infected cells to explore the molecular basis of HIV latency and persistence. These models may help us to identify and test new strategies to prevent and cure HIV.  

Area(s) of Focus:
Microbiome and Host Pathogen Interaction
Immunodeficiency 

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Judy H. Cho, MD

Judy H. Cho, MD is the Ward-Coleman Professor of Translational Genetics and Medicine and is Director of the Charles Bronfman Institute for Personalized Medicine (CBIPM). She is an international authority on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) genetics and disease mechanisms and is leading efforts in developing novel translational approaches to study IBD. Dr. Cho has led efforts in the identification of over 200 genetic regions associated to IBD. These associations implicate a key role for IL-23 responsive CD4+ T cells in both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s specific genetic loci implicate inflammatory monocytes, and a major area of interest is defining tissue-based phenotypes through single cell analyses. Since 2015, Dr. Cho has led the CBIPM, which includes the School’s major biobank, named BioMe. This biobank includes DNA, plasma samples, and matched medical record information on over 39,000 Mount Sinai Health System patient volunteers. She has delivered multiple named lectureships and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Basic Science from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2014.

Area(s) of Focus:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease  

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Jean-Frédéric Colombel, MD, PhD

Jean-Frédéric Colombel MD, PhD is a Professor of Gastroenterology and the Director of the Susan and Leonard Feinstein IBD Clinical Center and the Leona and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust IBD Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He was formerly Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Gastroenterology at CHU Lille in France, President of the GETAID (Groupe d’Etudes Therapeutiques des Affections Inflammatoires Digestives), President of ECCO (the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation) and Chair of IOIBD (the International Organization for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease). He has contributed to major discoveries in the field of IBD including the identification of NOD2 as a susceptibility gene for Crohn’s disease (CD), the development of the ASCA test (anti-S. cerevisiae (mannan) antibodies) which is still the most sensitive and specific serologic marker for CD and the identification of a new pathovar of Escherichia coli (AIEC for adhesive invasive E.coli) associated with ileal CD. He has been involved in most pivotal clinical therapeutic trials of the last 20 years that have helped to develop new drugs especially biologics and to improve therapeutic strategies in IBD. He is the author or co-author of more than 780 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and is Associate Editor of Gastroenterology.

Area(s) of Focus:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Paolo Cravedi, MD, PhD

Dr. Paolo Cravedi is a scientist physician with a strong interest in kidney transplantation and autoimmune glomerular diseases. During his clinical training as nephrologist in Italy, he designed clinical research studies in kidney transplant recipients and in individuals with renal diseases aimed at prolonging survival of the graft or the native kidneys, respectively. His studies have contributed to defining the organ allocation system currently used in many countries around the world.

He subsequently completed his postdoctoral training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he identified unanticipated immune effects of erythropoietin. While Dr. Cravedi’s lab is still interested in understanding the mechanisms of all reactive immune responses, it has more recently expanded its focus to study the pathogenesis of autoimmune glomerular disease.

Area(s) of Focus:
Transplant
Autoimmunity

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Jeremiah Faith, PhD

Jeremiah Faith, PhD received his PhD in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology from Boston University. He did his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St. Louis Medical School with a focus on the structure and function of the gut microbiome in healthy individuals. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Immunology Institute and the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. He is also director of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Gnotobiotic Facility and co-director of the Immunology Training Area. Dr. Faith’s lab studies the interactions between diet, gut microbes, and host physiology with an emphasis on Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Ongoing research in the lab includes:

  • Quantifying the influence of diet and the gut microbiota on host health and disease.
  • Understanding the impact of interpersonal variation in gut microbiome composition on host phenotypic variation.
  • Optimizing the engraftment of live bacterial therapeutics.
  • Tracking the stability and transmission of the human gut microbiota. 

Area(s) of Focus:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Cancer Immunology
Microbiome and Host Pathogen Interaction

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Sacha Gnjatic, PhD

Dr. Sacha Gnjatic, PhD is an Associate Professor and the Associate Director of the Human Immune Monitoring Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Gnjatic’s lab focuses on human immune responses to cancer in an antigen-specific manner, in the periphery and at the tumor site, to define new targets for the development of cancer immunotherapies, how they work and why they may fail. Dr. Gnjatic’s work on tumor antigens has established the immunological basis for testing cancer vaccines in over 40 clinical trials, opening a new field of cancer immunology based on clinical discovery, with the goal to achieve protective integrated immune responses in the fight against cancer. Dr. Gnjatic’s laboratory has pioneered novel high-dimensional techniques and served as reference for harmonized immunomonitoring of humoral, cellular, and tissue-based immune correlates, which has led to the adoption of new standards by other labs.

Area(s) of Focus:
Cancer Immunology
Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

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During my PhD at the International Center for Genetic Engineering Biotechnology (ICGEB) I have studied the oncogenic functions of HPV E6/E7 viral proteins and the relevance of splicing in regulating E6 functions. My postdoctoral work at the European Institute of Oncology I studied the role of chromatin in defining c-MYC target site recognition. I have also identified PRMT6, a member of the Protein Arginine MethylTransferase (PRMT) family, as an important enzyme regulating transcriptional repression.

In 2008 I started my lab at A*STAR in Singapore where I was promoted to Research Director and Coordinated the program of Epigenetics and Diseases.

In 2019 I moved to the department of Oncological Sciences and Pharmacological Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where I am currently an Associate Professor.

My lab has a long-standing interest in understanding basic mechanisms of transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation in order to identify therapeutic opportunities in oncology.

Currently, we are interested in the function in development and disease of Protein MethylTrasnferases (PMTs) and in modulation of Alternative Splicing using Splice switching Antisense Oligonucleotide (AON)-based approaches.

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Dirk Homann, MD

Trained as a physician and immunologist/virologist in Berlin, Boston, Paris and La Jolla, Dr. Homann has a long-standing interest in autoimmune and infectious disease, in particular the generation, maintenance, modulation, pathogenic potential and protective capacity of specific T cell immunity. Dr. Homann began his work as an independent investigator at the University of Colorado, joined the faculty at Mount Sinai in 2014, and was promoted to full Professor with tenure in 2019. Active areas of preclinical investigation include T cell memory; the role of various accessory pathways (chemokines, CD4+T cell help, SLAM family receptors, adenosine, complement system) in regulation of CD8+T cell responses to acute and chronic viral infections; and the concurrent therapeutic modulation of immune responses and beta cell survival in type 1 diabetes (T1D). The overarching goal of these endeavors is the development, adaptation and optimization of therapeutic strategies that effectively curtail (autoimmunity) or embellish (infectious disease) T cell responses with prophylactic and/or curative intent. Over the past decade, Dr. Homann has expanded his research program to encompass a broader context of pancreatic islet cell biology and histopathology in human T1D, and he has launched multiple collaborative efforts to better leverage complementary expert knowledge, unique technology access and more effective overall implementation of research strategies.

Area(s) of Focus:
Autoimmunity

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Ephraim Kenigsberg headshot

Ephraim Kenigsberg, PhD Ephraim Kenigsberg, PhD, is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences and the Icahn Institute for Data Science and Genomic Technology. His areas of focus include genetics and genomic sciences.

Area(s) of Focus:
Genetics and Genomic Sciences

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Seunghee Kim-Schulze, PhD

Seunghee Kim-Schulze, PhD, is a Facility Director of Human Immune Monitoring Center (HIMC) and assistant professor of Medicine (Hem/Onc division) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Kim-Schulze graduated with a PhD in biochemistry at University of Illinois, and undertook postgraduate fellowship training at the Northwestern medical school, Imperial College in London, UK and Columbia University Cancer center in New York, focused on cellular immunology in cancer. She was recruited to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2009 to establish the human immune monitoring facility under the guidance of Dr. Miriam Merad with the mission of identification of novel immune biomarkers of disease and response to therapy in patients with cancer and inflammatory disease. Dr. Kim-Schulze studies critical immune responses in cancer patients undergoing investigational cancer vaccines, check point blockade and the combinatorial therapies via the genomic, cellular and proteomic analysis. Dr. Kim-Schulze has developed multiple clinical protocols for the trials for the cancer immunotherapies and conducted laboratory correlative studies leading to peer-reviewed publications. She has identified the high PD-1 expression in tumor infiltrating immune cells of melanoma patients had poor prognosis compare to the ones with low level of expression before anti-PD-1 antibody became the revolutionary immune modulating FDA-approved for multiple indications. Her work also supports shared immune signatures between various cancers and proinflammatory disease. Currently, she is profiling the signatures of cytokines, chemokines, and other soluble proteins at the local and systemic level to identify the potential biomarkers in various disease including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune, neurology, psychiatry, and cardiovascular disease.

Area(s) of Focus:
Autoimmunity
Cancer Immunology
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Neuroimmunology
Transplant 

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Thomas Marron, MD, PhD

Thomas Marron, MD, PhD is the Assistant Director of Early Phase and Immunotherapy Clinical Trials for the Tisch Cancer Institute, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Marron’s previous work focused on studying innate immune signaling pathways, such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs), in primary immunodeficiencies; he now studies the role of agents targeting TLRs and other inflammatory pathways in cancer, specifically how they can be harnessed as part of in situ vaccines. He oversees an immunotherapy clinical trials program in the Tisch Cancer Institute which focuses on human cancer vaccines and novel combinatorial immunotherapy approaches. He also leads neoadjuvant trials in multiple tumor types aimed at characterizing the dynamic effects of immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and emerging immunomodulatory compounds on the tumor microenvironment, in order to identify biomarkers of response or resistance, and plan rational combinatorial prospective approaches to investigate in the pre-clinical and early-phase clinical setting.

Area(s) of focus:
Cancer Immunology

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Doctor Mehandru headshot

Saurabh Mehandru, MD, is an Associate Professor of Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Mehandru’s research interests include mucosal trafficking, the host-pathogen interface, dendritic cell biology, and mucosal immunopathology in primary and acquired immunodeficiency states. He has led the laboratory of Mucosal Immunology since 2013. The Mehandru Lab channels dendritic cell biology to study immune-microbial cross-talk at steady state. Additionally, the laboratory is interested in harnessing the immunizing properties of dendritic cells to improve the efficacy and longevity of mucosal vaccines.

 

 

Area(s) of Focus:
Gastroenterology

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Miriam Merad, MD, PhD

Miriam Merad, MD, PhD is the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Chair Professor in Cancer Immunology and the Director of the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Merad obtained her MD at the University of Algiers, Algeria. She did her residency in Hematology and Oncology in Paris, France and obtained her PhD in immunology in collaboration between Stanford University and University of Paris VII. She was recruited to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2004 and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with Tenure in 2007 and to Full Professor in 2010 and in 2014, she obtained an Endowed Chair Professor in Cancer Immunology.

Dr. Merad’s laboratory studies the contribution of macrophages and dendritic cells to Cancer and Inflammatory disease in mice and Human. Dr. Merad’s pioneering work mapping the regulatory network of dendritic cells (DCs) resulted in identification of a lineage of DC, the CD103+ DC, that is now considered a key target to improve antiviral and antitumor immunity. Another of her key discoveries is that, contrary to the previously-held beliefs that monocytes are precursors of macrophages, she found that tissue-resident macrophages in fact arise from embryonic precursors that take residence in tissues prior to birth and are maintained independently of adult hematopoiesis. These insights are now being used to develop novel macrophage and dendritic cell-specific targets for the treatment of Cancer and Inflammatory diseases. 

Dr. Merad has authored more than 160 primary papers and reviews in high profile journals. Dr. Merad receives generous funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her research on innate immunity and their contribution to human disease, and belongs to several NIH consortia. She is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and lectures around the world on her work. 

Area(s) of Focus:
Cancer Immunology
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Neuroimmunology 

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image of Irene Ramos

Irene Ramos, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her research focuses on the study of immune responses to virus infections, such as the pandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), influenza virus, and Zika viruses. Specifically, she is interested in improving our understanding of the innate immune response to virus infection in ex vivo human systems using single-cell technologies, such as single-cell transcriptomics or mass cytometry. She has done extensive work on the evaluation of the effects of several virulence factors of influenza virus in human primary cells. She also evaluated the immunological parameters associated with the protection against leishmaniasis and the progression of the disease, and on the development and evaluation of vaccines against Leishmania in the canine model. Additionally, she actively participated in several studies testing immune responses to influenza vaccines in immune-compromised children. Since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic she has contributed to our understanding of the establishment and durability of the antibody response against this virus in asymptomatic individuals and patients with mild disease, as well as to other important aspects of the immunology and epidemiology such as  identification of serological correlates of protection, blood innate immune profiling and virus transmission.

Area(s) of Focus:
COVID-19
Microbiome and Host Pathogen Interaction

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Alexander M. Tsankov

Alexander M. Tsankov, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He completed his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and his postdoctoral training at the Broad Institute and Harvard University (Alex Meissner and Aviv Regev’s lab). The Tsankov lab overall vision is to use genomics to build data-driven, predictive models that improve diagnosis, find new drug-able pathways, and personalize treatment of patients with lung cancer and respiratory diseases. The lab specializes in next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies (e.g. single-cell transcriptomic, epigenomic, and spatial data) and computational analysis with the goal of unraveling how the underlying regulatory mechanisms, cell-cell interactions, and regenerative lineages have changed in lung disease compared to normal lung tissue homeostasis.

Ongoing research interests include:

  • Using single-cell technologies to reconstruct the regenerative lineages in the human lung and to understand how these have been hijacked in cancer or altered in lung disease
  • Investigating cell-cell interactions and their role on lung regeneration, disease progression, and immunosuppression.
  • Dissecting the cell-type specific regulatory mechanisms underlying normal lung homeostasis and changes that arise in respiratory disease and lung cancer

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Nicolas Vabret, MD

Nicolas Vabret, MD is an Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology in the Department of Medicine, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Vabret received his PhD in Virology from the Pasteur Institute in Paris and later moved to New York City for his postdoctoral training.

Dr. Vabret’s research interests are focused on understanding the innate immune response during RNA virus infection and cancer development. In particular, Dr. Vabret studies the interaction of innate sensors with RNA molecules from self. He explores how this impacts the abilities of infected cells and tumors to be recognized and attacked by the immune system.