MSIP Honors SARS-CoV-2 and Drug Discovery Research Teams at Innovation Awards Ceremony

Awards ceremony introduction slide.At the annual Innovation Awards Ceremony on November 8, Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP) presented the Inventor of the Year, Transaction of the Year, and Mount Sinai Pitch Challenge awards to Mount Sinai innovators who are developing impactful, patient-centered solutions. The Inventor of the Year award was presented to two teams whose research efforts aim to treat and/or prevent SARS-CoV-2: the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) vaccine team within the Department of Microbiology, and the monoclonal antibody development team from the Center for Therapeutic Antibody Development (CTAD), of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The Inventor of the Year award was created to recognize an individual or collaborative investigators within Mount Sinai whose research is making, or has the potential to make, significant positive and product-driven impacts on health.

The NDV vaccine team award recipients included:

  • Adolfo García-Sastre, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, and Director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute
  • Florian Krammer, PhD, Professor of Microbiology
  • Peter Palese, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology
  • Weina Sun, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology

The NDV vaccine platform aims to provide a low-cost vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 for developing countries to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and increase vaccine accessibility. This technology is currently in clinical trials in countries including Vietnam, Mexico, Thailand, and Brazil. This initiative will expand global health equity by leveraging existing infrastructure for the influenza vaccine, which local labs already produce and manufacture, and to enable these countries to remain self-sufficient.

“It was only with the effort of many groups across Mount Sinai that we were able to build a program big enough to move things forward,” said Dr. García-Sastre. “We are now entering into phase three studies, so we hope that we will soon have a solution that will make an impact in places that cannot afford the vaccines.”

The monoclonal antibody development team award recipients included:

  • Domenico Tortorella, PhD, Professor of Microbiology
  • Andrew Duty, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology
  • Thomas Kraus, PhD, Assistant Professor of Microbiology
  • Thomas M. Moran, PhD, Director of the Center for Therapeutic Antibody Development and Professor of Microbiology

The therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies developed by the team are aimed at neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. The antibodies were developed using a specialized mouse platform, highlighting the team’s expertise in research and development of this kind, as well as their determination to benefit patients and society. The team also discovered that antibodies developed in 2005 against SARS-CoV-1 (known as SARS) were found to also bind to SARS-CoV-2. They shared these antibodies with other labs throughout Mount Sinai and across the U.S., enabling research efforts to combat COVID-19 to become a unified effort.

“We could see that these antibodies could be used as reagents to identify [COVID-19] and monitor immunity. These antibodies were disseminated for use as diagnostics,” said Dr. Moran. “We are of one voice, and the work that led to this award was a collaborative effort, with a huge amount of support from Mount Sinai administration and faculty.”

The monoclonal antibody development team also received the Transaction of the Year award, as the therapeutic monoclonal antibody technology culminated in an exclusive license agreement with biotechnology company Sorrento Therapeutics to advance the development of potential therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2. The Transaction of the Year award recognizes a notable technology from Mount Sinai that represents a major breakthrough in research and a strong commercial partnership for advancement.

“We would like to thank the staff and researchers from the Department of Microbiology. Each lab has been a hub of activity since the pandemic, with laser focus on gaining a comprehensive understanding of SARS-CoV-2 biology to develop potential solutions,” said Dr. Tortorella. “We are also very grateful for the leadership at Mount Sinai and the commitment of the institution that allows us to thrive, as we aim to develop potential therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2.”

Dr. Duty said: “We have been incredibly fortunate to not only be surrounded by great scientists and thought leaders at Mount Sinai, but also by MSIP, one of the most dynamic and capable offices of technology innovation and management. Our transaction with Sorrento Therapeutics would not have been possible without MSIP.”

The final award presented by MSIP recognized the Mount Sinai Pitch Challenge 2021 winner Charles Mobbs, PhD, Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Neuroscience, and Medicine. Mobbs is the founder of Gilga-Med, a startup company that is developing unique technology to treat age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. The Mount Sinai Pitch Challenge is the capstone event for MSIP’s Entrepreneurship Program, where finalists compete for a cash prize and pro-bono services to continue the development and advancement of healthcare solutions.

“Scientists are driven by curiosity – but I also want to save the world. I knew that biomedical research was going to be my best chance at saving the world and doing the most good,” said Dr. Mobbs. “Gilga-Med was encouraged by MSIP, and the [Pitch Challenge] is a prime example of the many terrific innovations that MSIP helps to advance to society.”

The Inventor of the Year and Transaction of the Year awards were presented to the winners by Erik Lium, PhD, President of MSIP, and Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Innovation Officer for the Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS). The Mount Sinai Pitch Challenge award was presented by Cynthia Cleto, Senior Director of Outreach, Entrepreneurship, and Special Programs.

“We are continuously inspired by this dedicated group of colleagues who met the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic with immense motivation to help patients on a global scale,” Lium said. “On behalf of MSIP and [MSHS], we congratulate them on these tremendous accomplishments.”

Tune in to the recording of the awards ceremony here.