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BioMed: The Future of AIDS

Relevant Links
 HunEx BioMed Group
 AIDS Research at NIH
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.

The 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 and 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.