April 25, 2003
"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.