Peter Palese is a Professor of Microbiology and the Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. His research is in the area of RNA-containing viruses with a special emphasis on influenza viruses. Specifically, he established the first genetic maps for influenza A, B, and C viruses, identified the function of several viral genes, and defined the mechanism of neuraminidase inhibitors (which are now FDA-approved antivirals).
He was also a pioneer in the field of reverse genetics for negative-strand RNA viruses, which allows the introduction of site-specific mutations into the genomes of these viruses. This technique is crucial for the study of the structure/function relationships of viral genes, for investigation of viral pathogenicity and for development and manufacture of novel vaccines. An improvement of this technique has been effectively used by him and his colleagues to reconstruct and study the pathogenicity of the highly virulent, but extinct, 1918 pandemic influenza virus.