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Dr. Igor J. Koralnik Named New Department of Neurological Sciences Chair

(CHICAGO) — Dr. Igor J. Koralnik, an accomplished clinician and researcher, has been named chairperson of the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. The announcement was made by Ranga Krishnan, MB, ChB, dean of Rush Medical College and senior vice president, medical affairs, Rush University Medical Center. The appointment is effective July 1.

Koralnik is currently chief of the Division of Neuro-Immunology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. He also serves as director of the HIV/Neurology Center, an outpatient clinic, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Koralnik succeeds Dr. Jacob H. Fox, who will retire as chairperson of Neurological Sciences at Rush after 26 years. Fox will remain on the neurology faculty at Rush.

“We are delighted that Dr. Koralnik is coming to Rush. He brings exceptional leadership skills, insightful research and clinical strengths that will compliment and help grow Rush’s broad neurological sciences research and clinical programs,” said Krishnan. “He is an outstanding scientist who will strengthen our many research endeavors that offer neurology patients therapies, procedures and devices not widely available.” 

Koralnik’s research focus is on the polyomavirus JC (JCV), the etiologic agent of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) which is a deadly demyelinating disease of the brain occurring mainly in immunosuppressed individuals, for which there is no cure. His laboratory work has used PML as a model to understand broader principles of neuropathogenesis associated with demyelination, neuronal injury, central nervous system inflammation, and seizure development. His research team has demonstrated that a strong cellular immune response against this virus is associated with a favorable clinical outcome and he continues to explore novel immunotherapies for PML.

In addition, he has investigated JCV reactivation in patients with multiple sclerosis treated with natalizumab (Tysabri), an immuno-modulatory medication associated with 614 cases of PML in MS patients worldwide to date. Koralnik also created a global neurology research program in Lusaka, Zambia, where he and his colleagues have studied central nervous system opportunistic infections and new onset seizures in HIV-infected patients.

Koralnik was principal investigator for numerous NIH-funded studies, and has authored more than 100 articles and abstracts in numerous peer-reviewed publications in print and other media on topics related to viral diseases affecting the nervous system and neurological manifestations of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In addition, he has been deeply engaged in mentoring activities within the division and the neurology department, and throughout Harvard Medical School.

Koralnik’s professional memberships include the American Academy of Neurology (founding member of the neuro-infectious disease section and global health section); the International Society for NeuroVirology where he served as member of the board of directors, chair of the fundraising committee and most recently president of the society in 2016; the American Society of Microbiology; the American Neurological Association and American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Koralnik received his medical degree at the University of Geneva Medical School in Geneva, Switzerland in 1987. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Geneva University Hospital from 1987 to 1990. He then completed a residency in neurology at Harvard-Longwood neurology training program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, from 1993 to 1996 as well as a repeated internship in medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, from 1996 to 1997. Koralnik completed his postdoctoral fellowship in 1993 in molecular biology of retroviruses at the Robert C. Gallo, MD, Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, before joining the Harvard Medical School faculty in 1997.


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