Vishwajit Nimgaonkar, MD, PhD

  • Director, Program for Genetics and Psychosis
  • Professor of Psychiatry and Human Genetics

    Education & Training

  • Graduate School – University of Oxford – PhD – Neuropharmacology
  • Medical School - Madras University, Christian Medical College – MD
  • Residency - Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC – Psychiatry
  • Fellowship - University of London, United Kingdom - Biochemistry
  • Post-Doctoral - University of London, United Kingdom - Biochemistry
Research Grants

NIH Grants:  R01, D43

Research Summary

Our group is dedicated to translational research and training. Our laboratory focuses on human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technologies to model infections with viruses that are common and can impair cognitive functions, including Herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1), Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Zika virus (ZIKV). Our group was the first to develop iPSC-based models of latent HSV-1 infection. Our cellular models have enabled us to identify several novel compounds that potently inhibit HSV-1 and ZIKV infections. Our prime candidate is R430 (trans-dihydrolycoricidine), a lycorane-type alkaloid derivative that has potent, broad-spectrum antiviral effects. We are now synthesizing and testing new derivatives to identify active pharmacophores. Separately, we have used our hiPSC-neuronal models to investigate copy number variants (CNVs) that elevate risk for psychiatric disorders. We are presently refining three-dimensional culture models of hiPSC-derived neurons for our work.

The translational arm of our work emphasizes research-based training, with a bias towards low and middle-income countries. We have helped to establish independent, fully functional laboratories and clinical research groups in India and Egypt. Our training programs are firmly grounded in empirical research and are complemented by didactic coursework. We encourage trainees to nurture their research ideas, drawing on resources available through our ongoing research. Our work has been continuously supported for the past 25 years by the National Institutes of Health and currently focuses on novel interventions for severe psychiatric illnesses.

Representative Publications
  1. DAiuto L, Williamson K, Dimitrion P, McNulty J, Brown CE, Dokuburra CB, Nielsen AJ, Lin WJ, Piazza P, Schurdak ME, Wood J, Yolken RH, Kinchington PR, Bloom DC, Nimgaonkar VL (2017). Comparison of three cell-based drug screening platforms for HSV-1 infection. Antiviral Research. 142, 136-140.
  2. Ganapathiraju MK, Thahir M, Handen A, Sarkar SN, Sweet RA, Nimgaonkar VL, Loscher CE, Bauer EM, Chaparala S: Schizophrenia interactome with 504 novel protein-protein interactions (2016). Schizophrenia, 2:16012
  3. Das DK, Tapias V, DAiuto L, Chowdari KV, Francis L, Zhi Y, Ghosh A, Surti U, Tischfield J, Sheldon M, Moore JC, Fish K, Nimgaonkar VL (2015). Genetic and morphological features of human iPSC-derived neurons with chromosome 15q11.2 (BP1-BP2) deletions. Molecular Neuropsychiatry. 1:116-123 (DOI:10.1159/000430916). PMID: 26528485.
  4. Prasad KM, Eack SM, Keshavan MS, Yolken RH, Iyengar S, Nimgaonkar VL. (2013) Antiherpes VirusSpecific Treatment and Cognition in Schizophrenia: A Test-of-Concept Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 39(4):857-66. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbs040. Epub 2012 Mar 23. PMID: 22446565, PMCID: PMC3686443.
  5. Nimgaonkar VL, Fujiwara TM, Dutta M, Wood J, Gentry K, Maendel S, Morgan K, Eaton J (2000). Low prevalence of psychoses among the Hutterites, an isolated religious community. American Journal of Psychiatry 157(7):1065-1070. PMID: 10873912.
  6. D’Aiuto L, McNulty J, Hartline C, Demers M, Kalkeri R, Wood J, McClain L, Chattopadhyay A, Zhi Y, Naciri J, Smith A, Yolken R, Chowdari K, Zepeda-Velazquez, Dokuburra CB, Marques E, Ptak R, Kinchington P, Watkins S, Prichard M, Bloom D, Nimgaonkar VL (accepted for publication). R430: A potent inhibitor of DNA and RNA viruses. Scientific Reports.