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AIDS Researcher Ho, Others Begin to Tackle SARS

April 25, 2003

AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho, who runs the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and was a key driver of AIDS treatment approaches now in use, said he has agreed to conduct work on potential therapy and vaccine approaches for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Ho was invited by Hong Kong's government, which has been helping him set up a state-of-the-art laboratory for work on HIV vaccines, to help advise the city's researchers on scientific approaches to developing SARS therapies and vaccines.

"Given all the lessons we've learned from HIV," Ho said, "this one looks easier." While most strategies would take years to bear fruit, he has ideas about "some therapeutics that could be developed over the short term," which he defined as "multimonth or multiweek."

He said his institute would not change its basic mission away from AIDS. "But when asked to help with a crisis situation, if you can, you do," Ho said.

So far, there are more than 4,000 suspected SARS cases worldwide, and more than 250 people have died. While that death toll is miniscule compared with other scourges, it has attracted attention because the disease is new, unknown and spreading. It took more than a decade of work by Ho and a legion of other scientists to develop treatments against HIV, and there is still no vaccine.

Several other well-known virologists are also working on the SARS threat, including Peter Jahrling of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, who rose to prominence as a researcher of smallpox and Ebola viruses. At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, two separate groups are now working on plans to develop a SARS vaccine. Gary Nabel, head of NIAID's vaccine research center, said he is shifting 30 people from HIV and Ebola projects to launch research on a SARS vaccine.

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Excerpted from:
Wall Street Journal
04.24.03; Antonio Regaldo; Mark Schoofs




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