Dr. Major received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois Medical Center in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology where he helped establish a Viral Genetics Center on cancer.
Following academic appointments as Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Medical School and the Loyola University Medical School in Chicago where he was also Associate Dean of Graduate Programs, Dr. Major joined the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1981. As Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and Neuroscience, Dr. Major’s investigations focused on the biology of virus infections in nervous system cells derived from the human brain and the regulation which controls viral and cellular gene expression, specifically on JC Virus/Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) and HIV-1/AIDS.
As part of this work, Dr. Major established a unique human brain stem cell culture for immortalized cell lines derived from the developing human brain. Dr. Major’s work has been published in over 260 papers as well as numerous text and review books. Dr. Major is a Founding Member of the International Society for Neurovirology, the Journal of NeuroVirology, an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine, Adjunct Professor, Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a Fellow of the American Neurological Association and Indian Academy of Neurosciences.
Dr. Major has been the Coordinator for AIDS Research in the NINDS Intramural Program, served as the Acting Deputy Director for the NINDS/NIH, overseeing a budget of 1.5 billion dollars, Acting Scientific Director of its Intramural Program and served as the Co-Chair of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Intra-agency Committee on Prion Science. Dr. Major has over 20 patents on unique human brain derived progenitor cells that can be directed to differentiate to astrocytes, oligodendrocytes or neurons and directs Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified laboratory diagnostic assays for PML. In 2014, Dr. Major became Senior Advisor to NINDS/NIH as a consultant after over three decades of federal service and became a Scientist Emeritus in 2017.
Research interests continue to be exploration of viral infections of the human nervous system and how the brain responds to injury of infections. Dr. Major serves on Independent Adjudication Boards of Pharma and Biotech companies evaluating risk assessment protocols of therapies for neurological diseases that place patients at risk for adverse reactions. Dr. Major reviews manuscripts in the fields of neuroinfectious viral diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and glial cell biology of the human brain.