Miriam Merad was born in Paris, France, where her Algerian parents were finishing their medical studies. Her parents moved the family back to Algeria in the 1970s to take part in the newly independent country’s efforts to build up its medical and scientific institutions, and as children, Merad and her three siblings spent a lot of time in the hospital where her parents worked long hours. Thanks to this experience, Merad learned to respect the “transformational power of science,” and watching her parents commit to serving a larger cause inspired her own pursuit of medicine. Merad completed her MD at the University of Algiers and her residency in hematology and oncology in Paris.
In 1998, Merad came to the United States to pursue her research in the emerging cancer vaccine field. She completed her PhD in immunology, in collaboration between Stanford University and University of Paris VII. Stanford’s fruitful research environment and cutting-edge technology made her reconsider a planned return to France.
Following graduation, Merad was recruited by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, where her research on macrophages (white cells that defend against bacteria and play an important role in immune system regulation) and dendritic cells (tree-like cells that guard against bacteria and viruses) has had a profound impact on the treatment of cancer and holds promise for the development of cancer vaccines.
Merad is currently the Mount Sinai Endowed Professor in Cancer Immunology and director of the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She also coleads the Cancer Immunology Program at the Mount Sinai Tisch Cancer Institute and is director of the Mount Sinai Human Immune Monitoring Center (HIMC).
Merad is leading efforts at Mount Sinai to understand why some people develop more severe forms of COVID-19 while others do not. She coauthored a study, published in Nature, exploring the role of hyperinflammatory response in exacerbating disease severity, and also developed a rapid test to monitor a patient’s inflammatory response to the virus. Her team is currently running a clinical trial of the drug sarilumab to investigate its ability to control that inflammatory response. Merad has authored more than 170 papers and reviews in high-profile journals, including a seminal 2010 Science study on the origin of macrophages. Among her many honors are the Leukemia Research Foundation Award and the William B. Colley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology. In 2020, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.