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HomeFaculty › Stephen J. Polyak, PhD

Stephen J. Polyak, PhD

photo Dr. Stephen J. Polyak

Research Associate Professor;
Adjunct Research Associate Professor, Department of Global Health, 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 Associate Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.  He also holds adjunct appointments in the Departments of Global Health and Microbiology.  Dr. Polyak received his Ph.D. in Molecular Virology and Immunology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1993.  After post-doctoral training in the laboratories of Drs. Michael Katze and David Gretch at the University of Washington, Dr. Polyak was appointed to the faculty in February of 2000.

Dr. Polyak’s research focuses on the interactions between liver cells and hepatitis C virus (HCV), a global health problem.  With the support of various local, national and international collaborators, Dr. Polyak has performed extensive analyses of the innate antiviral and inflammatory responses to HCV infection, as well as countermeasures used by HCV to thwart the cellular response to virus infection.  He also has interests in viral evolution and pathogenesis, and has also recently developed a program that focuses on the effects of botanical medicines on HCV infection and liver disease, with a current focus on the hepatoprotective botanical silymarin.

Dr. Polyak is the author of over 60 publications.  He was a former recipient of a Liver Scholar Award from the American Liver Foundation.  His research on HCV 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), and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  He is an editorial board member and/or reviewer for several virology 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).

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

Current Research

  • 2010-2015 NIAID: U19:
    "Immune Escape Strategies in Hepatitis C Infection"
    Hepatitis C Cooperative Research Center, Years 6-10. PI: Hugo Rosen, University of Colorado.
    PI of Core 2: Polyak.
  • 2011-2016 NCCAM: R01:
    "Mechanisms of Silymarin Hepatoprotection"
    Role: PI

Selected Publications

  1. Polyak SJ, Khabar KS, Paschal DM, Ezelle HJ, Duverlie G, Barber GN, Levy DE, Mukaida N, Gretch DR. Hepatitis C virus nonstructural 5A protein induces interleukin-8, leading to partial inhibition of the interferon-induced antiviral response. J Virol. 2001; 75(13):6095-106. PMID: 11390611.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Wagoner J, Morishima C, Graf TN, Oberlies NH, Teissier E, Pecheur E-I, Tavis JE, Polyak SJ. Differential in vitro effects of intravenous versus oral formulation of silibinin on the HCV life cycle and inflammation. PLoS One. 2011, 6(1): e16464. PMID: 21297992.54
  5. 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.

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

Last updated: 2/5/2013

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