International Society for NeuroVirology

2016 Paradigm Builder Lectureship
Jonathan Karn
Professor of Molecular Biology
Case Western Reserve University

Dr. Jonathan Karn is the recipient of the 2016 ISNV Paradigm Builder Lectureship award. Dr. Karn is an internationally recognized virologist who has made seminal contributions to the study of transcriptional control processes during the course of HIV replication and latency. From 2002 to the present, Dr. Karn has been working on epigenetic control mechanisms that regulate HIV transcription during viral latency. Dr. Karn’s laboratory and his colleagues have established a number of new model systems for studying HIV latency, and using these in vitro systems have identified novel pathways leading to proviral DNA activation and silencing. The experimental observations have provided key insights that support current efforts focused on HIV eradication and cure. Additional projects directed by Dr. Karn recently have included studies centered on harnessing NK cells to eradicate the latent HIV reservoir and studies of HIV infection and latency in microglial cells. Perhaps of seminal experimental importance in the early 1990’s, were studies performed by Dr. Karn that demonstrated that the HIV regulatory proteins Tat and Rev were RNA binding proteins with subsequent studies designed to map their recognition sites and demonstrate how these binding activities were essential for their biological activities. Between 1976 and 1983, Dr. Karn worked with Dr. Sydney Brenner, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. Together with Dr. Brenner, Dr. Karn cloned and sequenced the myosin genes from C. elegans, one of the earliest examples of using genetics to drive gene discovery. Another significant outcome of this work was the development of physical mapping techniques for studying large genomes in collaboration with Dr. John Sulston, co-winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize with Dr. Brenner.

Over the years, Dr. Karn has had a tremendous instinct for defining important biological problems and defining important gaps in knowledge associated with these problems and developing defining experimental plans to define new protein targets to fuel efforts to develop effective inhibitors of these processes. Dr. Karn is currently the Reinberger Professor of molecular biology, Chairman of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology and Director of the Center for AIDS Research at Case Western Reserve University. He received his BS degree from Yale University and his PhD from Rockefeller University. He is author of more than 100 publications, 23 patents and has an impressive history of funding. Over the years, he has trained and mentored more than 60 researchers and was awarded the outstanding mentor award in 2007 from Case Western. He has been at the heart of providing a clear understanding of HIV-1 transcriptional control mechanisms associated with productive viral replication and the process of viral latency and reactivation. These studies have provided a firm foundation for furthering studies focused on HIV cure and eradication strategies.