Biopreparedness Expert Gustavo Palacios, PhD, to Join Mount Sinai, Strengthening Research Collaborations with Department of Defense
Virologist Gustavo Palacios, PhD, is joining the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), where he led the application and development of molecular epidemiology to advance the field of biopreparedness. Dr. Palacios will strengthen existing research collaborations between Icahn Mount Sinai and the United States Army-Department of Defense (DoD), laying a foundation for joint research initiatives to protect national and global public health.
As Professor of Virology at Icahn Mount Sinai, Dr. Palacios will hold appointments in Mount Sinai’s Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute directed by Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, Irene and Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine, and the Department of Microbiology led by Peter Palese, PhD, Horace W. Goldsmith Professor and Chair.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Palacios to our team as we continue to lead a national effort to understand new and emerging viruses and thwart future pandemics,” said Dr. Palese. “The globe has felt the devastation of the recent pandemics, which highlight the need to invest in research and development to end the current crisis and the next one in waiting. Public, private, government, and academic efforts are crucial to create a biopreparedness system for the country and the globe. We are excited to further strengthen our ties with government researchers and scientists who share a common goal of protecting public health.”
Dr. Palacios’s transition to Icahn Mount Sinai is the first step to strengthen the relations and conduits between Mount Sinai and USAMRIID. Academic and government partnerships have been a priority goal of USAMRIID under the leadership of Colonel E. Darrin Cox, MD, USAMRIID Commander, to maximize the impact of DoD’s research, development, and testing and evaluation investment by ensuring integration and partnership with biomedical infectious disease research centers with similar goals.
Dr. Palacios was the Founder and Director of the Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS) at USAMRIID from 2011-2019. As a Special Science Advisor to the Commander, Dr. Palacios directed a state-of-the-art genomics laboratory that houses the most advanced sequencing equipment available and led the application and the development of the field of real-time molecular epidemiology. CGS’s pioneering work was demonstrated in western Africa during the 2013-2016 Ebola virus disease outbreak and during the outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. It performed studies of viral transmission during the outbreaks of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 2018-2019, and Andes virus in South America in 2020. Dr. Palacios was the USAMRIID lead on the development program ADEPT (“Accelerated Defense against Emerging Pathogen Threats”), an integrated biopreparedness plan to respond to emerging infectious disease threats. ADEPT was endorsed by the World Health Organization as one of the six most meritorious biopreparedness proposals.
Dr. Palacios has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts including publications and covers in Cell, Science, Nature, and The New England Journal of Medicine. His current research interests include the study of transmission in person-to-person and animal-to-person routes and creating mechanisms to accelerate research and development against emerging pathogen threats.
Mount Sinai’s Department of Microbiology and the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute are global leaders in advancing research and understanding on emerging and re-emerging virus pathogens. They quickly reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic by dedicating research and clinical resources to mitigate it. Dr. Palacios’s addition to the team further emphasizes Mount Sinai’s focus on infectious diseases and biopreparedness against any serious threat that unknown viruses pose to human health. Supporting local, state, and federal needs with state-of-the-art research in this area, Mount Sinai’s development of the universal influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine are just two of the many examples of its world-class research in virology and microbiology. Mount Sinai currently conducts research for several DoD agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Joint Science and Technology Office, and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.
Mount Sinai Health System is uniquely positioned to become a biosurveillance network to detect emerging pathogens and evaluate medical countermeasures and diagnostic devices to allow rapid response. During outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, the ability to collect specimens is crucial. Clinical samples are needed to determine baseline levels of host and pathogen biomarkers, as well as for determining clinical sensitivity and specificity values to inform diagnostic test development and refinement. The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, during 2020 and West Nile virus in 1999 demonstrate the huge impact of travel and movement of goods in the introduction of emerging pathogens through New York City. The unique collaboration between Mount Sinai, the U.S. Army, and DoD is paramount to prepare for future events.
For more than 50 years, USAMRIID has provided leading-edge medical capabilities to deter and defend against current and emerging biological threat agents. The Institute is the only laboratory in the Department of Defense equipped to safely study highly hazardous viruses requiring maximum containment at biosafety level 4. Research conducted at USAMRIID leads to medical solutions—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, information, and training programs—that benefit both military personnel and civilians. Over the years, USAMRIID has shown itself to be uniquely suited to answer the nation’s call, and 2020—marked by the COVID-19 pandemic—was no exception.
“USAMRIID looks forward to strengthening our relationship with Mount Sinai,” said Colonel Cox. “Academic relationships help us maximize the impact of DoD’s research, development, and testing and evaluation investment. Through integration and collaboration, we can share USAMRIID’s capabilities while leveraging those of other public and private biomedical research centers with similar goals and interests.”
“To efficiently and effectively counter an epidemic caused by a known or unknown pathogen, deliberate and advanced research expertise, planning, and development are crucial for a rapid and strategic response. Our government and industry partners enable the accelerated development of medical countermeasures and global defense. The collaboration between USAMRIID and Mount Sinai will enhance the world’s capabilities for an integrated response to the current and future global pandemics,” said Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean of Icahn Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs at Mount Sinai Health System.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationally by U.S. News & World Report.