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Jay A. Levy, MD

Jay A. Levy, MD, is an AIDS and cancer researcher and an educator in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He is presently professor in the Department of Medicine and research associate in the Cancer Research Institute. He is director of the Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research at UCSF. Dr. Levy graduated with high honors in 1960 from Wesleyan University (Connecticut) and was awarded Fulbright and French Government fellowships to conduct research in Paris, France. He earned his M.D. degree in 1965 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. From 1965 to 1967, he was an intern and resident at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

From 1967 to 1970, he was a staff associate at the National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD), where he conducted research on DNA and RNA cancer viruses. In 1972, Dr. Levy was appointed assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Medicine, where he established a laboratory for the study of tumor viruses. He has been a full professor since 1985.

In his early work, Dr. Levy discovered xenotropic viruses that introduced a new paradigm in virology. These retroviruses are not infectious for their species of origin but only in cells of a foreign host including human. This work confirmed the germline transmission of inherited (endogenous) retroviruses and paved the way for the use of these and related viruses in human gene therapy. His characterization of retrovirus-like particles in human placentas in the 1970s supported the possible genetic transmission of endogenous human retroviruses.

During the past 30 years, Dr. Levy and his staff have dedicated their efforts to research on AIDS. In 1983 he independently discovered the AIDS virus, HIV, which he originally called the AIDS-associated retrovirus (ARV). He pioneered heat-treatment studies that demonstrated how to heat-inactivate HIV in clotting factor preparations. This approach, for which he received the Murray Thelin Award from the National Hemophilia Foundation, has protected many hemophiliacs from HIV infection. He was the first to report the presence of HIV in the brain and bowel and linked the virus to diseases in these tissues. His group was also the first to demonstrate the ability of CD8+ lymphocytes in healthy infected people to control HIV replication by a noncytotoxic mechanism. It is mediated by a secreted, yet to be identified, CD8+ cell antiviral factor (CAF). This discovery presents a new insight into how the host immune system can control viral infection without killing the infected cell. Dr. Levy is currently conducting studies to identify the structure of CAF in approaches for immune-based therapies and to develop an AIDS vaccine.

Dr. Levy is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He was given the Award of Distinction by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Wesleyan University and an Honorary Degree in Science from that university. In 1998, he was chosen by the San Francisco Examiner as one of the ten most influential people in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1999, he was given the UCSF/ARI George Sarlo Award for Excellence in Mentoring. In 2002, he was chosen as the 45th Faculty Research Lecturer at UCSF, the highest honor given to a member of the UCSF Academic Senate. In 2004, he received the Abbott Laboratories Award for outstanding research in immunology. In 2008, he was awarded the Gold Medal for excellence in medical research by Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Levy is editor-in-chief of the highly cited journal AIDS. He has published over 600 scientific articles and reviews and is the author or editor of 14 books dealing with viruses and immunology. Among these are his acclaimed four-volume series, The Retroviridae, and his seminal, sole-authored book, HIV and the Pathogenesis of AIDS, now in its third edition (2007) and being translated into several languages. Dr. Levy is a member and participates in programs of the World Affairs Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is an AIDS advisor in several countries including India, China, France, Italy, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, and Thailand.


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