People in the News February 2008

January - February, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 1

photo of Dr. Joshua Lederberg

One of the 20th century's leading scientists, Dr. Joshua Lederberg, who received the 1958 Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in bacterial genetics, died in early February at the age of 82.

Lederberg graduated from high school at the age of 15, earned a bachelor's in zoology from Columbia College in 1944 and a doctorate from Yale University in 1947. He held appointments at the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University before moving to Rockefeller Univerity in 1978.

Throughout his career, he cultivated a broad range of scientific interests and worked to improve communications among scientists, the public and policymakers. He advised nine U.S. presidents and in 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award.

In the mid-1990s, he co-chaired an external panel asked to review NIH's international programs. In his presentation of the panel's recommendations, he reported the panel intensely felt the NIH could not fulfill its mission without attending carefully to global problems, information, resources and cooperation. He advocated Fogarty should remain a separate unit of the NIH.

Time Magazine Names Fogarty Grantees' Work Top Medical Breakthrough of 2007


Time magazine has selected the work of two Johns Hopkins University researchers showing that male circumcision is a powerful HIV prevention tool, the number one medical breakthrough of 2007.

Fogarty AIDS Training and Research Program grantee, Dr. Ronald Gray, and his colleague Dr. Maria Wawer, oversaw a randomized clinical trial in Rakai, Uganda demonstrating that surgical circumcision reduced a man's chances of acquiring the HIV virus through sexual contact with women by more than 50 percent.

The details of their work were published in the Lancet, whose editors called the discovery "a new era for HIV prevention."

The dramatic findings led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to halt the Uganda research and another clinical trial in Kenya so circumcision surgery could be offered to men in the control groups. The WHO and UNAIDS now endorse the procedure as part of a comprehensive prevention package for HIV-negative men.

More than 30 AITRP grantees are currently involved in this research.

To learn more, visit: http://www.jhsph.edu/rakai/

Fogarty's Science Policy Chief Featured on Voice of America


photo of Dr. Karen Hofman

Fogarty's science policy chief was recently featured in a Voice of America report on global health. Dr. Karen Hofman, Director of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation, was interviewed about the importance of implementation science to the quick delivery of new drugs, treatments and interventions to the populations where they are needed most. One example she offered is male circumcision as a means to prevent the spread of HIV. Since different cultures react differently to the idea of circumcision, Dr. Hofman said researchers must now study how best to employ this medical intervention in culturally sensitive ways.

Another example she presented regards drugs that are normally effective in suppressing HIV. In poor countries, these might not have the same effect in patients who also suffer from malaria, tuberculosis or bad nutrition, she said.

In other words, one-size does not fit all, the report concluded.

Hofman's interview was the result of a recent paper she co-authored in Science, titled "Implementation Science."

Fogarty's Joel Breman Quoted in Science

photo of Dr. Joel Breman

Fogarty's malaria expert and senior scientist, Dr. Joel Breman, was recently quoted by Science in an article titled, "Malaria: Did They Really Say...Eradication?"

The piece dealt with the recent call for malaria eradication made by Bill and Melinda Gates, and the buzz that has created among infectious disease researchers. While no timeline was given, it has ignited a debate on whether it is wise to dangle potentially unattainable goals before the public, the article reported. "There is a danger of over promising and underachieving," according to Dr. Breman.

At the same time, the appeal for eradication is having an impact, the report said. Scientists and U.S. health officials are trying to turn the vision into reality, bolstered by already-plummeting malaria rates in several countries.

The Gateses outlined a two-pronged approach. They encouraged a massive ramping up of the use of existing tools while simultaneously working to discover new ones, such as vaccines, drugs, alternative insecticides, traps and other novel interventions. 

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