As part of our “Meet Yale Internal Medicine” series, we feature Benjamin Goldman-Israelow, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and former resident of the ABIM Physician-Scientist research pathway.
Since joining Yale School of Medicine in 2019, Goldman-Israela physician-scientist interested in virology and immunology, established himself in Yale’s COVID-19 studies because of his ability to translate between research and patient care.
“I’m a very curious person, so science was a natural fit for me,” Goldman-Israelow said. “However, seeing patients is what drives me to try to understand viruses, how they cause disease and how we can create cures or vaccines to treat them.”
Path to Yale
Goldman-Israelow received her MD from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where her research focused on understanding how different aspects of the immune system regulate the hepatitis C virus. in 2016, he came to Yale School of Medicine as part of Yale’s ABIM Physician-Scientist Research Pathway, a short two-year fellowship training for residents who are heavily committed to research careers.
Goldman-Israelow says he was attracted to Yale’s combined residency and fellowship program because of the outstanding history and reputation of the Infectious Diseases Section of the Department of Internal Medicine and the Department of immunobiology, as well as the favorable and stimulating environment of the department of internal medicine.
During an interview for the program, he met Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and Professor of Dermatology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases), and Researcher, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Iwasaki is leading several studies of immune defense mechanisms against viruses that enter through mucosal surfaces. Goldman-Israelow’s desire to work with Iwasaki cemented her decision to pursue post-doctoral research at Yale.
Continuing research on SARS-CoV-2
Goldman-Israelow joined Iwasaki’s lab in August 2019, working on models of inflammatory pathologies based on viral infection. Five months into his new post, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, China.
“We quickly saw that this virus was not going to be a localized or controlled phenomenon,” Goldman-Israelow said. “We saw cases popping up around the world, and then the real wake-up call was when Italy was besieged by the virus in February 2020. But by then we already knew it was something something we had to work on.”
Goldman-Israelow and his team quickly developed a new preclinical model to further research SARS-CoV-2, which led to the first of several of his first-author publications in Iwasaki’s lab. His model showed that the type 1 interferon system, the body’s innate immune system that is encoded in the human genome, is inadequate to limit SARS-CoV-2 replication.
“COVID has come at a very interesting time in science, where we have a ton of tools to quickly understand what’s going on in both preclinical models and in humans,” Goldman-Israelow said. “Traditionally, it was more difficult to do human research because we didn’t have enough patients. During the COVID pandemic, we unfortunately had millions of people who were affected by the same disease at the same time. I think the pandemic came at a time when we could really dig into this and study both virology and human immunology.
Develop a new vaccine strategy
Goldman-Israelow’s most recent project focused on developing a new vaccine strategy, “Prime and Spike.” This intranasal vaccine is designed to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus by recruiting antibodies and memory T cells to the airways. “The idea is that we can try to prevent replication before it has a chance to take hold, and higher levels of antibodies at the initial site of infection may have broader efficacy against the new emerging variants,” he explained.
The originality and significance of Goldman-Israelow’s research, which he pursued despite demanding clinical responsibilities during the pandemic, led to his promotion from trainee to instructor in medicine in June 2021. He is also a recipient of the Department of Internal Medicine 2022 Iva Dostanic Physician -Trainee Award, an annual award that recognizes trainees with an exceptional passion for science and clinical care. In August 2022, he was promoted to assistant professor in the section of infectious diseases. He plans to continue his research on COVID-19 and other emerging respiratory pathogens with his own lab.
In his spare time, Goldman-Israelow enjoys being with his wife and their two young children, cooking, gardening, skiing and biking. “I found that to be a great part of living in New Haven — you can get on your bike and be on farmland within about 10 miles,” he said.
The Infectious Diseases Section of the Department of Internal Medicine engages in a wide range of patient care, research, and educational activities. To learn more about their work, visit Infectious diseases.