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Stephen J. Polyak, Ph.D.

Lab Staff

Erica S. Lovelace
Jessica Wagoner
Stephen J. Polyak, Ph.D.
Research Professor, Laboratory Medicine | Adjunct Research Professor, Global Health and Microbiology, University of Washington

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 on the admissions committee. Dr. Polyak received his Ph.D. 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.