• Adjunct Research Professor, Global Health
  • Research Professor, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
  • Adjunct Research Professor, Microbiology
Steve Polyak

Harborview Medical Center, Research & Training Building
Ninth and Jefferson Building
908 Jefferson Street, 3NJ-345
Box 359690
Seattle, WA 98104
United States

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My research focuses on the interactions between cells and viruses, with a historical focus on hepatitis C (HCV), with more recent studies focused on Zika virus (ZIKV) and related flaviviruses, filoviruses (Ebola (EBOV), Marburg (MARV)) and arenaviruses (Lassa (LASV), Junin (JUNV). One area of study is the cellular innate antiviral and inflammatory responses to virus infection. We also study how natural products engage human cells to protect them from damage by virus infection and chronic inflammation. We extensively studied the liver protective natural product silymarin (a.k.a. milk thistle from Silybum marianum) on HCV infection and inflammation. Current studies are focused on the herbal extract known as kratom (from Mitragyna speciosa)and how the indole alkaloids that comprise kratom engage opioid receptor signaling and inflammatory responses. We also study the synthetic antiviral called Arbidol (ARB; a.k.a. umifenovir), a drug used clinically in Russia and China to combat influenza virus infection. We have shown that ARB inhibits a growing list of globally prevalent viruses including HCV, EBOV, MARV, LASV, JUNV, and ZIKV.

  • PhD (McMaster University (Canada))
  • BS (McMaster University (Canada))
Country Affiliations 
Health Topics 
  • Drug and Vaccine Development
  • Ebola
  • Hepatitis
  • Viruses
Pathobiology research areas 
DGH Centers, Programs and Initiatives and Affiliated Organizations 

Arbidol and Other Low-Molecular-Weight Drugs That Inhibit Lassa and Ebola Viruses. Hulseberg CE, Fénéant L, Szymańska-de Wijs KM, Kessler NP, Nelson EA, Shoemaker CJ, Schmaljohn CS, Polyak SJ, White JM. J Virol. 2019 Apr 3;93(8). pii: e02185-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02185-18. Print 2019 Apr 15. PMID: 30700611

The Antiviral Drug Arbidol Inhibits Zika Virus. Fink SL, Vojtech L, Wagoner J, Slivinski NSJ, Jackson KJ, Wang R, Khadka S, Luthra P, Basler CF, Polyak SJ. Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 12;8(1):8989. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27224-4. PMID: 29895962

The Synthetic Antiviral Drug Arbidol Inhibits Globally Prevalent Pathogenic Viruses. Pécheur EI, Borisevich V, Halfmann P, Morrey JD, Smee DF, Prichard M, Mire CE, Kawaoka Y, Geisbert TW, Polyak SJ. J Virol. 2016 Jan 6;90(6):3086-92. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02077-15. PMID: 26739045

Silymarin Suppresses Cellular Inflammation By Inducing Reparative Stress Signaling. 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. J Nat Prod. 2015 Aug 28;78(8):1990-2000. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00288. Epub 2015 Jul 17. PMID: 26186142