Center for Vaccine Research and Pandemic Preparedness

Revolutionizing Vaccine Science

The Center for Vaccine Research and Pandemic Preparedness at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is home to a diverse portfolio of research projects centered around viral pathogens and pandemic preparedness. Our mission is to transform our understanding of how specific vaccines work and to leverage this knowledge to develop long-lasting, broadly protective new vaccines. The scientific advancements and learning made from the Center will also generate new therapeutics in the form of biologicals. Research mechanisms include basic virology and immunology research, pre-clinical and clinical translational research studies, longitudinal observational biobanking studies, and advanced molecular research.

Our ongoing clinical translational studies are conducted by talented staff across a variety of specialties, and include diverse and vulnerable patient populations. Our work with Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West has enabled us to broaden access to research for our study participants.

Research Areas

Our team is dedicated to the development of vaccines and novel therapeutics against emerging viruses. Using insect cell recombinant protein core and hybridoma technology, researchers are working to develop vaccines and antibodies against emerging zoonotic viruses such as hantaviruses, filoviruses, arenaviruses, and avian influenza viruses such as H5N1, H6N1, H7N9, and H10N8. Such viruses may propagate asymptomatically in an animal reservoir but have the potential to lethally infect humans upon close contact.

In response to the 2022 mpox outbreak, our researchers were also quick to launch study cohorts looking for participants who were infected and who received the smallpox vaccine.

Our researchers are investigating human B cell and antibody responses to newly developed vaccines targeting emerging pathogens. We use cutting-edge tools to assess how antigen-specific B cell responses are shaped in humans exposed to emerging pathogens such as influenza, SARS-CoV-2, mpox, and yellow fever, either by infection or vaccination. We also study how monoclonal antibody responses in humans can inform vaccine design or therapies against infectious diseases.

Researchers have helped demonstrate the existence of cross-reactive and cross-neutralizing antibodies against divergent hemagglutinins (HAs) and neuraminidases (NAs) in humans. Such responses may protect humans against potentially pandemic, zoonotic influenza viruses, and understanding how the breadth of cross-reactivity differs across animal models is essential to developing a universal influenza vaccine, which aims to boost cross-reactive, HA stalk antibodies.

We have also developed broader influenza vaccines that would protect against a range of virus subtypes and are working to develop a universal influenza virus vaccine. One approach involves vaccination with chimeric viruses to boost antibodies to the highly conserved HA stalk domain.

In addition to these investigations, we are leading biobanking observational studies, enrolling participants who were recently infected with influenza as well as healthy participants who plan to receive the vaccine, and are willing to provide samples at specific time points afterwards.

Influenza virus Hospital Surveillance

The Mount Sinai Health System was selected as the only U.S. site within the Global Influenza Hospital Surveillance Network, a network of more than 100 hospitals in more than 25 countries providing surveillance following the same protocol. This participation is made possible thanks to the Mount Sinai Pathogen Surveillance Program (MS-PSP), which brings together a unique team of experts at the intersection of basic and clinical science, microbiology, genomic sciences, hospital operations, biobanking, genomics, big data analytics, bioinformatics, clinical informatics, biostatistics, computer, and computational and data science. The MS-PSP is co-directed by Honoratus Van Bakel, PhD, Emilia Sordillo, MD, PhD, and Dr. Simon.  The overarching goal of the MS-PSP is to improve patient outcomes through the detection, tracking, and prevention of pathogen-related infections. Through the Pathogen Surveillance Program, researchers are using whole-genome sequencing to understand the molecular basis of evolution and transmission of infectious diseases, host-pathogen interactions, and to identify novel pathogens. The program is led by a multidisciplinary investigative team with a background in infectious disease, epidemiology, statistical modeling, and analyzing pathogen genomes and microbiomes. Researchers have successfully tracked nosocomial viral outbreaks and performed longitudinal unbiased influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2 surveillance in New York City.

Researchers are studying how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, responds to infection and vaccination. The Protection Associated with Rapid Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 (PARIS) Study started in the first wave of the pandemic in New York City, enrolling health care workers willing to provide samples and data for the assessment of immune response to infection, prior to vaccination and breakthrough, as well as to vaccination. The study is ongoing and has already provided valuable information about the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and the dynamics of spike antibody responses to COVID-19 RNA vaccination in people with and without pre-existing immunity.

We were recently awarded the Programming Long-lasting Immunity to Coronaviruses (PLUTO) project, which aims to develop vaccines that offer broad protection against existing and future SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as pandemic, zoonotic (those that can jump from animals to humans), and seasonal coronaviruses responsible for other illnesses.