Icahn School Of Medicine At Mount Sinai Continues Drive To Diversify Research

December 5, 2022

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai announced today the appointment of two new Laureates as part of its Biomedical Laureates Program.

Bringing the total to five appointments for this year and furthering its institutional commitment to broadening faculty diversity and mentorship opportunities. 

“We are thrilled to welcome these two fantastic researchers to Icahn Mount Sinai. With each new biomedical laureate, the Health System brings new eyes and ears to critically important areas of medicine—in this case, diabetes research and vaccine development—and new opportunities to be truly diverse and inclusive in biomedical research,” says Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD, Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, Director of The Friedman Brain Institute, and Dean for Academic Affairs, Icahn Mount Sinai, and Chief Scientific Officer, Mount Sinai Health System.

“And with each new laureate, our system is better equipped to fulfill its mission to provide safe, compassionate and equitable care to the diverse patient communities we serve,” adds Dr. Nestler, an early champion of the Biomedical Laureates program.

Diabetes and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the United States and abroad. In 2008, the Mount Sinai Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute (DOMI) was founded to address this scourge. In just over a decade, it has distinguished itself as a world leader in diabetes and obesity research, with broad focuses on many subdisciplines within this space, ranging from very basic science through translational research, to community-based education and prevention programs.

Romina Bevacqua, PhD, has joined DOMI as Assistant Professor. Dr. Bevacqua’s research focuses on the regulatory mechanisms that drive the growth, function, and dysregulation of pancreatic islets—groups of cells that include beta cells, which produce and distribute insulin.

Using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, Dr. Bevacqua will study genetic mechanisms in human islets and also explore gene editing with therapeutic potential, an effort that will be supported through her secondary appointment at Mount Sinai’s Black Family Stem Cell Institute, which promotes research in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine and seeks to accelerate its translation to the clinic. Previously she served as an instructor at the Stanford University School of Medicine,

“Being a Mount Sinai Biomedical Laureate presents an opportunity to be part of an institution that recognizes the importance of diversity in the advancement of science. Equally important, it enables me to be part of an institute at the very forefront of diabetes research that not only complements my research pursuits, but provides me the necessary support and mentoring to establish my own lab and advance my scientific career. That support will enable me to commit myself and my lab to advancing the same goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion that Mount Sinai is committed to upholding,” says Dr. Bevacqua.

“The addition of Dr. Bevacqua to our team at DOMI significantly enhances the breadth of our research expertise and our efforts to understand the genes and the mechanisms that promote insulin production in beta cells. She also brings a passion for teaching and serving as a role model, which will support our efforts to open more doors for underrepresented individuals and widen our pipeline of diverse faculty. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Bevacqua to DOMI and the Mount Sinai community, and we look forward to working with her to realize new treatment options that significantly improve quality of life for patients who have diabetes,” said Andrew F. Stewart, MD, Director, DOMI, and Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at Icahn Mount Sinai.

B cells, the critically important white blood cells that produce antibodies to defend us from infection, are the focal point for Camila Coelho, PhD, who has joined the recently established Center for Vaccine Research and Pandemic Preparedness as Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Icahn Mount Sinai. Dr. Coelho is investigating the genetic factors that contribute to B cell response to vaccination to achieve durable antibody responses.

During her training at the National Institutes of Health, she led the discovery of the first fully human monoclonal antibody to block malaria transmission and subsequently led several groundbreaking projects characterizing B cell responses to COVID-19 vaccines, which significantly expanded her knowledge of vaccine responses.

She has received early-career awards from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Institute Pasteur, International Union of Immunological Societies, and American Society for Microbiology, and has published several first-author articles on vaccine and human immunology. Dr. Coelho previously served as an instructor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

“It is a real honor for me to join what I consider to be the most prestigious virology department in the world. At Icahn Mount Sinai, I will have access to some of the most esteemed researchers in this field and thousands of samples through the BioMe Biobank, which will enable me to design and launch clinical trials to explore important questions related to vaccine immunology,” says Dr. Coelho. “In light of the institution’s formidable commitment to supporting the progression of minority faculty into leadership roles, I cannot think of a better place to continue my research than Mount Sinai.”

“We were looking for a brilliant B cell biologist with the promise and talent to complement our collective expertise at Mount Sinai and we immediately recognized Dr. Coelho would be a fantastic addition to our department. We believe she will enhance our ability to engage in cutting-edge immunology research and will greatly advance the field for the benefit of the patients we serve,” said Viviana A. Simon, MD, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, Pathology, Molecular and Cell-Based Medicine, and Medicine (Infectious Diseases), at Icahn Mount Sinai.

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 healthcare 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 healthcare 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.

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned the distinction by multiple indicators: It is consistently ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report‘s “Best Medical Schools,” aligned with a U.S. News & World Report “Honor Roll” Hospital, and top 20 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding and top 5 in the nation for numerous basic and clinical research areas. Newsweek’s “World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York City and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 30 globally; Newsweek also ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital highly in 11 specialties in “World’s Best Specialized Hospitals,” and in “America’s Best Physical Rehabilitation Centers.” 

For more information, visit https://www.mountsinai.org.

Photo credit: Mount Sinai Morningside.

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