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Zlokovic tapped to head USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute

Berislav Zlokovic of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
Berislav Zlokovic assumes his new role as director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC on July 1. (Photo/Philip Channing)

Berislav Zlokovic has been appointed director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute (ZNI) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Zlokovic, the institute’s deputy director and professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, begins his new role on July 1. He succeeds Pat Levitt, who has served as director since 2009.

He will also work with faculty leadership to integrate neuroscience research, training and education programs, as well as continue to serve as director of the institute’s Center for Neurodegeneration and Regeneration.

“Dr. Zlokovic is singularly well-qualified to lead the Zilkha,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School. “As the institute’s director, he will expand our efforts to build a world-class neuroscience program at USC. He will devise new neuroscience initiatives that bring together our best basic and clinical scientists, lead faculty recruitment efforts in collaboration with basic and clinical departments, and develop plans to increase philanthropic efforts. We also thank Dr. Levitt for his leadership and his numerous contributions to the Keck School’s success.”

An eminent scientist-clinician, Zlokovic is recognized for his contributions to the understanding of the pathogenesis of disorders of the aging brain (as foundations for development of new therapies), and for his research on the mechanisms in cerebral blood vessels mediating brain dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, he is internationally renowned for his work on stroke, including the discovery of the protein C pathway in the brain that has therapeutic implications for stroke and neurological disorders.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this prestigious institute,” Zlokovic said. “It’s especially exciting to return to the Keck School of Medicine in this capacity, and I look forward to working with our researchers toward cures for diseases and conditions like Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson’s. I’m also grateful to Pat Levitt for the work he has done to create a solid foundation of science and innovation at ZNI.”

Zlokovic rejoined USC in December 2011 after spending the last 11 years at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. At USC, he spent 11 years at the Keck School, the last eight as professor of neurosurgery, physiology and biophysics.

While at the University of Rochester, Zlokovic was dean’s professor, professor of neurosurgery and neurology, director of The Center for Neurodegenerative and Vascular Brain Disorders, and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Dementia Research.

He is currently the principal investigator for numerous grants, including two National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded R37 awards to study pathogenesis and new therapeutic targets in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as two RO1 awards to study the development of therapies for ischemic stroke and investigate the role of pericytes in the adult and aging brain.

Over the course of the past 20 years, Zlokovic’s research has focused primarily on the relationship of vascular problems to Alzheimer’s disease. He was a pioneer of the concept that linked impaired blood flow and flaws in the blood-brain barrier to the development of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, through their impact on neurons.

A prolific author, Zlokovic has written more than 250 published articles in journals such as Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Cell Biology and Nature Neuroscience.

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the MetLife Award, the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology, the Javits Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and a MERIT Award from the National institute on Aging.

Zlokovic is also an active biotech entrepreneur, inventor and holder of several patents. He co-founded three companies with Selim Zilkha, a member of the Keck School Board of Overseers and a major donor to the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, including ZZ Biotech, which focuses on developing new treatments for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Zlokovic received his bachelor’s degree from Belgrade College of Sciences in what is now Serbia. He received his medical degree and doctorate from the University of Belgrade, where he also completed his residency in clinical physiology (neurology and intensive care). Zlokovic completed fellowships in transport biology at Queen Elizabeth College in the United Kingdom, as well as in neurobiology and blood-brain barrier transport at King’s College London, and in neurobiology and transport physiology at St. Thomas’ Hospital London.

Zlokovic tapped to head USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute

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