|BioMed: The Future of AIDS
May 20, 2005 --
The latest HunEx BioMed event in our year-long history featured two speakers, Drs. Mikulas Popovic, and Julianna Lisziewicz,
both prominent HIV researchers who had worked at Dr. Robert Gallo's lab (More about the speakers). Although the
weather wasn't exactly cooperating, the rain and unusual cold could not deter the enthusiastic
Hungarian crowd of about 25 people from showing up at the "Benedek Farm/Camp Olympia", by courtesy of the owner, Mr. Istvan Benedek. In addition of his generous offer to host the event, Mr. Benedek ("Pista Bacsi" for most of us) personally
donated a bottle of champagne. We thank him for his patronage.
The event was opened by the organizer Dr. Janos Nacsa. In contrast with the customary order - but perhaps more in line with our traditions - the event started with he famous fish soup that Drs. Katalin and Lajos Baranyi had prepared (of his own
catch), only to be (in Hungarian cousine traditionally) followed by "turoscsusza." We owe a big thank-you to Lajos for his excellent treat.
The professional part of the event was kicked off by Dr. Popovic's informal presentation. Among many other aspects of his rich history of HIV research, he
provided the gripping stories of how he co-discovered the HIV virus and how
the original development of reliable HIV testing took place over the winter
of 1983-84, when he worked in the Gallo laboratory. Despite the title ("The
Future of AIDS"), a lot was thoroughly covered about the past (in fact the
dawn) of HIV research. To nearly all in the audience it was a truly
once-in-a-lifetime moment to hear such a personal account of some of the
great scientific discoveries of our time, let alone that it was from the
discoverer himself, in a garage, in Hungarian, over fish soup and
turoscsusza! Dr. Popovic had to speak for much longer than he originally
expected, as he was bombarded with questions, driven by growing professional enthusiasm.
Once he more than "earned" a break, Dr. Lisziewicz had a chance to tell her
story, which was equally fascinating.
She talked about her therapeutic, DNS-based vaccine strategy, which she hopes to develop in Hungary. Once the speakers finished answering questions, the discussions continued in small groups
until very late.
BioMed group is grateful to all who came and made this a memorable event.
In addition to those thanked already, special thanks should go to Elfreida Fodor, Laszlo Karai, Mihaly
Bodo, and Mate Tolnay for their help before, during, and after the event.
Dr. Zoltan Mari
About the speakers
About the presenters:
Both scientists started its AIDS carrier at Dr. Robert Gallo's laboratory at NIH.
Dr. Mikulas Popovic was the first one who provided clear evidence that the HIV is the causative agent of AIDS and was the first who was able to culture it in vitro. Also with his colleagues he developed the first sensible workable blood test. Dr. Julianna Lisziewicz was the head of antiviral unit between 1990-1995 where her team has made several discoveries on novel chemotherapies, antisense and gene therapy. In 1995, Dr. Lisziewicz founded a non-profit organization, called Research Institute for
Genetic and Human Therapy (RIGHT) with two laboratories in Washington DC
Pavia (Italy). RIGHT team has contributed to AIDS research the Berlin
Patient, Structured Treatment Interruptions, Autoimmunization, Hydroxyurea
therapy and DermaVir therapeutic vaccination. RIGHT's goal is to translate
basic discoveries to clinical treatment, therefore Dr. Lisziewicz not only managed the
research but also co-chaired several Phase I and II clinical trials in
Europe and USA. The plan of Dr. Lisziewicz is to bring novel treatment options to the
market. She plans to build a new biotech company in Europe, preferentially
in Hungary or Italy, focusing on immune therapies and therapeutic
vaccination on diseases with high unmet medical need, like HIV/AIDS.