Renowned Microbiologist Peter Palese, PhD, Honored

Peter Palese, PhD, a world-renowned microbiologist who has led seminal studies that continue to greatly expand the understanding of influenza viruses, was recently named a member of the 2014 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The organization is one of the nation’s most acclaimed honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research. It includes among its current members more than 250 Nobel Laureates across disciplines and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Dr. Palese is the Horace W. Goldsmith Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Chief among his many achievements is establishing the first genetic maps for the influenza A, B, and C viruses.

“On behalf of the entire Mount Sinai Health System, I would like to congratulate Dr. Palese on his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” says Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and President for Academic Affairs, the Mount Sinai Health System. “Peter Palese is one of the truly great scientists in the world today. His research on the mechanisms of how viruses cause disease is leading to vaccines that will help millions of people. In addition, Dr. Palese is a phenomenal mentor whose trainees are now leaders in their own right. This recognition by the Academy is well-deserved.”

Dr. Palese, together with Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, PhD, Director of Mount Sinai’s Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute, and the Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine, created a revolutionary new approach to study viral gene structure and function, allowing them to manipulate single genes, which greatly facilitates the development of commercial influenza vaccines.

Both scientists and Christopher Basler, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, have also collaborated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to study the deadly influenza virus of 1918. By using historical samples from victims, specifically RNA fragments to determine the genetic sequence of the killer strain, they were able to recreate the virus and to identify the most important gene responsible for the high virulence of the 1918 virus.

Among his many honors, Dr. Palese was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and he was a recipient of the 2012 Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award and the 2010 European Virology Award from the European Society for Virology. He is the author of multiple book chapters and more than 300 publications, and he has received several patents on viral vaccines and antiviral compounds.

“As scientists in microbiology and infectious disease, we are always looking for answers to questions about existing pathogens and those that may emerge in the future,” says Dr. Palese. “Receiving recognition like this helps to reinforce that the work we do is seen as important to those inside and outside of our laboratories.”

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