• Press Release

Mount Sinai Scientist Awarded $8 Million for Visionary Research on Environmental Influences on Health and Disease

  • New York, NY
  • (June 04, 2019)

A theory that proposes the existence of a dynamic interface between the environment and human physiology over someone’s lifetime has earned a leading Mount Sinai researcher the prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Manish Arora, PhD, will receive a total of $8 million over eight years to complete research into his theory, known as the Biodynamic Interface.

This award is supported by the NIEHS through the “revolutionizing innovative, visionary environmental health research” (RIVER) program. The program recognizes outstanding investigators in the field of environmental health, offering up to $750,000 per year over the next eight years.

Dr. Arora and his team will use this award to combine the theory with newly developed technology to develop predictive models that may prevent diseases decades before any clinical signs are apparent. Dr. Arora’s team will study disorders that include autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), which appear at different stages of life under influences from the environment and genetics.

“I am grateful to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for this award that will help unlock the environmental underpinnings to diseases with causes and therapies that remain largely unknown,” said Dr. Arora, the Edith J. Baerwald Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Understanding the environmental factors in autism, schizophrenia, and ALS could identify specific pathways related to the diseases’ pathology and could lead to an early warning system for these and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The earlier these diseases are diagnosed or predicted, the earlier people can take advantage of therapies.”

The team that has developed the Biodynamic Interface Theory includes Paul Curtin, PhD, and Christine Austin, PhD, Assistant Professors of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine; Austen Curtin, PhD, Data Analyst; Lisa Maroski, a consultant with expertise in language and philosophy; and Alessandro Giuliani, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Rome.

This award is one of six RIVER program awards announced in June to innovative researchers in the field of environmental health sciences. The RIVER program is part of an ongoing effort to support pioneering, independent scientists’ research programs, as opposed to research projects, which is typically how NIEHS has awarded research funds in the past.

“The program is designed to give researchers intellectual and administrative freedom, as well as sustained support for up to eight years, to push their research in new and important directions,” said Jennifer Collins, program coordinator for RIVER. “Now in its second year, the RIVER program seeks to fund researchers from the NIEHS grantee community who have previously demonstrated a broad vision and exhibited the potential for continuing their impactful research through a research award that emphasizes scientific flexibility and stability.”

Dr. Arora is known for his innovative work on biomarkers that utilize human baby and permanent teeth to reconstruct the timing of exposure to various harmful chemicals and essential nutrients, and the biological response to those environmental factors. Dr. Arora developed the method of using teeth to reconstruct prenatal and early-life exposures to nutrient and toxic elements in children with neurological conditions. Methods such as tooth analysis have provided the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research a wide-net approach to observe multiple exposures and patterns at a time. A member of the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research, Dr. Arora is examining early-life environmental exposures and their effects on health, disease, and development. Exposomics research takes a large-scale systematic approach to understanding how the environment affects health outcomes across the lifespan.

The grant number for this award is R35ES030435.

About The Institute for Exposomic Research

The Institute for Exposomic Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is the world’s first research institute devoted to the intensive study of the exposome, or the totality of environmental influences on human health. The mission of the Institute is to understand how the complex mix of nutritional, chemical, and social environments affect health, disease, and development later in life and to translate those findings into new strategies for prevention and treatment. For more information, visit http://icahn.mssm.edu/exposomics.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.

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