Sharwaree Gokhale Memorial Lecture by Dr. Avindra Nath @4pm

Location: Faculty Hall


Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bengaluru

Sharwaree Gokhale Memorial Lecture

Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Time: 4 to 5 PM
Venue: Faculty Hall, Main Building, IISc Campus

Role of endogenous retroviruses in brain development and neurodegeneration

Distinguished Speaker:
Dr. Avindra Nath
Chief, Section of Infections of the Nervous System
Clinical Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Guests of Honour:

Dr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chair, Governing Council, IISc
Prof. G. Rangarajan, Director, IISc


Nearly 8% percent of the human genome consists of endogenous retroviruses, however their role in human physiology and disease is poorly understood. It has become apparent that these elements are highly active in early stages of embryogenesis and get silenced once organogenesis has occurred. Several of these viral elements are unique to humans and may be critical for the acquisition of complex functions of the human brain compared to other mammals. We have shown that one of the viruses HML-2 is highly expressed in stem cells and their persistent activation can be found in brain tumor stem cells. All the same they are silenced in terminally differentiated neurons, and reactivation of these genes can cause neuronal cell death. Motor neurons seem to be particularly susceptible to such injury. In keeping with these observations, we have found that HML-2 is activated in the brains of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We are studying the mechanisms by which the viral proteins can cause neuronal injury and are developing a rational approach to block the expression of the virus.


Dr. Nath is a physician–scientist who specializes in neuro-immunology and neurovirology. His research is focused on studying the clinical manifestations and pathophysiology and developing treatments for neurological infections with a focus on HIV infection and endogenous retroviruses. In recent years, he has studied the neurological complications of emerging infections including Ebola, Zika virus and SARS-CoV-2 and has conducted research on patients with undiagnosed neuroinflammatory disorders. He has served on advisory committees to the NIH, CDC, FDA and WHO. The International Society of NeuroVirology gave him the Pioneer in NeuroVirology Award for his contributions to HIV neuropathogenesis and elected him as the President of the Society. He received the Wybran award from the Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology for contributions to Neurovirology. He also received the NIH Director’s award for his work on SARS-CoV-2 and the Health and Human Services Secretary’s award for his work on Ebola infection. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

About Sharwaree Gokhale Memorial Lecture:

Ms. Sharwaree Gokhale was a brilliant IAS Officer from the 1974 batch. She became the first woman Collector of Mumbai City and retired as Additional Chief Secretary (Environment) after 36 years of distinguished administrative service. In an exemplary gesture of service to the society, she bequeathed her sprawling apartment in the Ashirwad Cooperative Society, Andheri, Mumbai, to the Centre for Brain Research, for conducting research in brain sciences. She passed away in January 2016 and in her memory, CBR has instituted a Memorial Lecture. The first three lectures have been delivered by Prof. Steven Edward Hyman, Director of Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University; Prof. Gullapalli N. Rao, Chair, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad; and Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, former President of the Public Health Foundation of India. The lecture by Dr. Avindra Nath is the fourth in the series.