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HomeFaculty › Stephen J. Polyak, PhD

Stephen J. Polyak, PhD

photo Dr. Stephen J. Polyak

Research Professor;
Adjunct Research Professor, Departments of Global Health and Microbiology, University of Washington;
Member, Center for AIDS Research, University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center;
Affiliate Investigator, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle

Contact Information

Harborview Medical Center
908 Jefferson Street
Room 3NJ-345 HCV Lab
Box 359743
Seattle, WA 98104-2449
Tel: 206.897.5224
Fax: 206.897.4312

Personal Biography

Dr. Polyak is a Research Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also holds Adjunct Research Professor appointments in the Departments of Microbiology and Global Health. In Global Health, Dr. Polyak plays an active role in the Pathobiology Graduate Program, where he serves as the Chair of the admissions committee. Dr. Polyak received his PhD. in Molecular Virology and Immunology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1993. After post-doctoral training at the University of Washington, Dr. Polyak was appointed to the faculty in 2000.

Dr. Polyak's research focuses on the interactions between cells and viruses, with emphasis on hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV. One focus of his molecular virology and cell biology laboratory involves characterizing innate antiviral and inflammatory responses to virus infection. He also has a program focusing on how natural products combat chronic inflammation. Current efforts are focused on the liver protective natural product silymarin, generically known as milk thistle extract, on hepatic inflammation. Another project focuses on how natural products like silymarin reduce chronic immune activation associated with HIV infection. Research on the synthetic antiviral compound known as Arbidol (a.k.a. Umifenovir) has revealed that the drug is a broad spectrum antiviral compound, which inhibits infection of cells by many viruses, including HCV, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), certain Arenaviruses, and Ebola virus.

Dr. Polyak has published over 80 peer-reviewed publications, reviews and book chapters, and was a recipient of a Liver Scholar Award from the American Liver Foundation. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), and the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA). He is an editorial board member and/or reviewer for several virology, cell biology, and hepatology journals, a member of study sections nationally (NIH) and internationally (Canadian Institutes for Health Research), and a full member of the American Society for Virology (ASV), American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), and the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research (ISICR). He has also reviewed research proposals for various national research agencies in the UK, Malaysia, France, and the Czech Republic. He was also the Chair of the 18th International Symposium on Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses, held in Seattle in September 2011, and has been a member of the International Organizing Committee for the Symposium since 2008.

Education and Training

  • BSc (Honors Biology, summa cum laude), McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, 1987
  • PhD (Molecular Virology and Immunology), McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, 1993
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1993-1994
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1994-1998

Research Interests

  • Virus-host interactions o Virus-induced inflammation
  • Natural product-based approaches to combating virus-induced inflammation and pathogenesis
  • Mechanisms of action of natural products
  • Arbidol as a broad-spectrum antiviral

Selected Publications

  1. Polyak SJ, Morishima C, Shuhart MC, Wang CC, Liu Y, Lee DY. Inhibiton of T-cell inflammatory cytokines, hepatocyte NF-kappaB signaling, and HCV infection by standardized Silymarin. Gastroenterology. 2007;132(5):1925-36. PMID: 17484885.
  2. Polyak SJ, Morishima C, Lohmann V, Pal S, Lee DY, Liu Y, Graf TN, Oberlies NH. Identification of hepatoprotective flavonolignans from silymarin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107(13)5995-9. PMID: 20231449.
  3. McClure J, Lovelace ES, Elahi S, Maurice NJ, Wagoner J, Dragavon J, Mittler JE, Kraft Z, Stamatatos L, Horton H, De Rosa SC, Coombs RW, Polyak SJ. Silibinin Inhibits HIV-1 Infection by Reducing Cellular Activation and Proliferation. PLos One. 2012; 7(7):e41832. Epub 2012 Jul 25. PMID: 22848626
  4. Lovelace ES, Wagoner J, MacDonald J, Bammler T, Bruckner J, Brownell J, Beyer RP, Zink EM, Kim YM, Kyle JE, Webb-Robertson BJ, Waters KM, Metz TO, Farin F, Oberlies NH, Polyak SJ. Silymarin Suppresses Cellular Inflammation By Inducing Reparative Stress Signaling. J Nat Prod. 2015 Aug 28;78(8):1990-2000. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00288. Epub 2015 Jul 17. PMID:26186142
  5. Pécheur EI, Borisevich V, Halfmann P, Morrey JD, Smee DF, Prichard M, Mire CE, Kawaoka Y, Geisbert TW, Polyak SJ. The Synthetic Antiviral Drug Arbidol Inhibits Globally Prevalent Pathogenic Viruses. J Virol. 2016 Jan 6;90(6):3086-92. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02077-15. PMID:26739045

Honors and Awards

  • Centennial Fund Scholarship, McMaster University, 1989-1993
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Studentship, McMaster University, 1989-1993
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship, McMaster University, 1990
  • Comprehensive Examination, McMaster University, "Pass with Distinction", 1992
  • American Liver Foundation, Liver Scholar Award, 1999-2002
  • International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research Travel Award, 2000
  • International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research Travel Award, 2002
  • University of Washington Science in Medicine Lectureship: "Mechanisms of Resistance to Antiviral Therapy by Hepatitis C Virus", 2003
  • International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research Travel Award, 2004
  • Chair of International Symposium on Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses, 2011
  • Peter and Susan Cheney Senior Research Fellow, University of Leeds, 2017

Last updated: 07/18/2016

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