W. Ian Lipkin, MD

  • John Snow Professor of Epidemiology
  • Professor of Neurology
  • Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology
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Dr. Lipkin has 40 years of experience in diagnostics, microbial discovery and outbreak response. He has mentored and trained over 30 students and post-doctoral fellows and leads a workforce of over 65 principal investigators, post-doctoral fellows and research and support staff with expertise in sample and database management, bioinformatics, neurology_biostatistics, diagnostics, molecular biology, experimental pathology, serology, culture, animal models, and staged strategies for efficient pathogen discovery and proof of causation.

In the 1980s, Dr. Lipkin identified AIDS-associated immunological abnormalities and inflammatory neuropathy, which he showed could be treated with plasmapheresis, and demonstrated that early life exposure to viral infections affects neurotransmitter function. Dr. Lipkin was the first to use purely molecular methods to identify infectious agents. In 1999, he identified West Nile virus as the cause of encephalitis in North America. He developed MassTag PCR and Greenechip technology, two multiplex assays that have been used to identify and characterize more than 400 viruses, and was the first to use high throughput sequencing for pathogen discovery. In 2003, Dr. Lipkin established the Norwegian Autism Birth Cohort (ABC), the largest prospective birth cohort devoted to investigating gene-environment-timing interactions and biomarker discovery.

Dr. Lipkin served as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the National Biosurveillance Advisory Subcommittee and as Director of the Northeast Biodefense Center and the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Diagnostics, Surveillance and Immunotherapeutics for Emerging Infectious and Zoonotic Diseases, the only academic WHO Center focused on diagnostics and discovery. He has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, USAID PREDICT, US Department of Agriculture, US Food and Drug Administration, Agilent Technologies, Pfizer, Roche 454 Life Sciences, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org, Institut Pasteur, and OneHealth Alliance.

His honors include the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Young Investigator Award, Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, Distinguished Lecturer of the Nation Center for Infectious Diseases, Honorary and Founding Director of the Beijing Center for Infectious Diseases, Fellow of the American Society for Microbiology, Fellow of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Member of the Association of American Physicians. He has been featured by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Discover Magazine, Nature Medicine, the History Channel, National Geographic, National Public Radio, Wired, the Huffington Post, This Week in Virology, WNYC, and Steven Soderbergh's film Contagion.

Academic Appointments

  • John Snow Professor of Epidemiology
  • Professor of Neurology
  • Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology

Administrative Titles

  • Director, Center for Infection and Immunity, Mailman School of Public Health


  • Male

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • MD, Rush University
  • BA, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Residency: University of Washington
  • Residency: University of California
  • Residency: University of Pittsburgh
  • Fellowship: Research Institute of Scripps Clinic

Committees, Societies, Councils

Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Member, Association of American Physicians

Fellow, Infectious Disease Society of America

Fellow, American Academy of Neurology

Council on Foreign Relations

Honors & Awards

Castleman Warrior Researcher of the Year, University of Pennsylvania

Silverstein Lecturer, Northwestern University

Scientific American: 10 World Changing Ideas

Mendel Medal, Villanova University

Simonyi Lecturer, Oxford University

Drexel Prize in Translational Medicine

Charles C. Shepard Science Award

Kinyoun Lecturer, NIH/NIAID Senior Scholar in Global Infectious Diseases

Ellison Medical Foundation

Pew Scholar, Biomedical Sciences


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Research Interests

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Chronic disease
  • Immunopathogenesis and infectious diseases
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Pathogen Discovery
  • Post-acute Infection Syndromes
  • Viral Zoonoses

Selected Publications

Lipkin WI. “Finding the Origin of a Pandemic Is Difficult. Preventing One Shouldn’t Be”. The New York Times Opinion. April 25, 2023.

Brilliant L, Smolinski M, Danzig L, Lipkin WI. “Inevitable Outbreaks: How to stop an age of spillovers from becoming an age of pandemics”. Foreign Affairs. January/February 2023 issue.

Che X, Hornig M, Bresnahan M, Stoltenberg C, Magnus P, Suren P, Mjaaland S, Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Susser E, Lipkin WI (2022) Maternal mid-gestational and child cord blood immune signatures are strongly associated with offspring risk of ASD. Mol Psychiatry. Mar;27(3):1527-1541.

Lipkin WI. "The Known Knowns, the Known Unknowns, and the Unknown Unknowns of COVID-19". The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. July 21, 2021.

Allicock OM, Guo C, Uhlemann AC, Whittier S, Chauhan LV, Garcia J, Price A, Morse SS, Mishra N, Briese T, Lipkin WI (2018) BacCapSeq: a Platform for Diagnosis and Characterization of Bacterial Infections. mBio. Oct;9:e02007-18.

Briese T, Kapoor A, Mishra N, Jain K, Kumar A, Jabado OJ, Lipkin WI (2015) Virome-capture-sequencing (VirCapSeq) enables sensitive viral diagnosis and comprehensive virome analysis. mBio. Sep 22; 6(5):e01491-15.

Alter HJ, Mikovits JA, Switzer WM, Ruscetti FW, Lo SC, Klimas N, Komaroff AL, Montoya JG, Bateman L, Levine S, Peterson D, Levin B, Hanson MR, Genfi A, Bhat M, Zheng H, Wang R, Li B, Hung GC, Lee LL, Sameroff S, Heneine W, Coffin J, Hornig M, Lipkin WI (2012) A multicenter blinded analysis indicates no association between chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and either xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus or polytropic murine leukemia virus. mBio, 3: e00266-12.

Palacios G, Druce J, Du L, Tran T, Birch C, Briese T, Conlan S, Quan P-L, Hui J, Marshall J, Simons JF, Egholm M, Paddock CD, Shieh W-J, Goldsmith CS, Zaki SR, Catton M, Lipkin WI (2008) A new arenavirus in a cluster of fatal transplant-associated diseases. N Engl J Med. Mar 6;358(10):911-8.

Cox-Foster DL, Conlan S, Holmes EC, Palacios G, Evans JD, Moran NA, Quan PL, Briese T, Hornig M, Geiser DM, Martinson V, vanEngelsdorp D, Kalkstein AL, Drysdale A, Hui J, Zhai J, Cui L, Hutchison SK, Simons JF, Egholm M, Pettis JS, Lipkin WI (2007) A metagenomic survey of microbes in honey bee colony collapse disorder. Science. Oct 12;318(5848):283-7.

Global Health Activities

Brazil: A randomized double-blind controlled trial of convalescent plasma in adults with severe COVID-19 as a potential therapeutic early in the 2020 pandemic.

Ecuador/Israel: Characterization of a novel orthomyxo-like virus as the causative agent in Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV), which is implicated in the mass die-off of tilapia in two continents and having significant risk of global food security.

India: Identification of rickettsia as the cause of unexplained encephalitis in Musahar children, which was treatable with inexpensive antibiotics resulting in a dramatic decrease in morbidity and mortality.

Mongolia: Molecular and serologic investigation of the 2021 COVID-19 case surge among vaccine recipients was attributed to ineffective inactivated virus vaccines rather than the Delta variant. The country had a 90% vaccination rate.

Norway: The Autism Birth Cohort Study is a long-time collaboration with colleagues at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health that began in 2003 and was initiated to investigate the gene, environment, and timing interactions that could potentially enable an early autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. By 2008, the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) hit the milestone of 100,000 pregnancies included in the study.

Norway: Discovery of a novel orthoreovirus as the cause of a fatal heart and skeletal muscle inflammation threatening farmed and wild salmon worldwide.

People's Republic of China: WHO, the Chinese Minister of Science and Technology, and the Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Science, invited Lipkin to present and train clinical microbiologists on diagnostic technology that led to better surveillance and curbed the SARS epidemic in 2003.

Saudi Arabia: Identified the reservoir and vectors of the MERS-CoV outbreak to be camels as an intermediary between bats and humans. Lipkin was the first external investigator to be invited by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia in reponse to the MERS outbreak.

Zambia: Discovery of a novel arenavirus (LuJo) as the cause of an outbreak of unexplained hemorrhagic fever in Southern Africa with an 80% mortality rate.

Urban Health Activities

New York City: Pathogen surveillance in rodents to determine the microflora of rats and mice in proximity to densely populated and high traffic areas.

Vaccine Public Service Announcements: In collaboration with New York State, a COVID-19 vaccine PSA was filmed at the Mailman School of Public Health to promote awareness in early 2021 when vaccines were first available.