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Co-discoverer of HIV Robert Gallo visiting UB to address future of viral and vaccine research


Thu, Mar 2nd 2017 01:20 pm

Gallo's visit to mark the admission of UB to the Global Virus Network, an international community of scholars focused on research and drug development

Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV as the cause of AIDS and creator of the HIV blood test, will visit the University at Buffalo to help mark the launch of the university's Global Virus Network Center of Excellence as one of the world's premier virology research centers.

The Global Virus Network (GVN), co-founded by Gallo, is an international coalition of leading virologists from more than 20 countries who work together to understand why viruses cause illness and to develop drugs and vaccines that may prevent illness and death.

Gallo will tour Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences today, and attend the launch of the UB GVN on Friday (9-11:30 a.m.) at the UB Clinical and Translational Research Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at 875 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

He will present, "Human Retroviruses: Reflections from the past and Approaches for the Future," to the UB community at 10 a.m. The discussion will reflect on the field of HIV research, the status of an HIV vaccine and the difficulties facing researchers in the future.

Additional remarks will be provided by Venu Govindaraju, Ph.D., UB vice president for research and economic development, and Gene Morse, Pharm.D., director of the UB GVN Center for Excellence and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Following the event, Gallo will attend a networking luncheon with UB students.

"Following the immediate HIV and AIDS outbreak in the early 1980s, it became clearer than ever that there was a real need for global collaboration in biomedical research," said Gallo, M.D., GVN scientific director and the Homer and Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "This need for meaningful global collaboration covering every class of human viruses continued until the formation of the GVN in 2011. The GVN serves to safeguard mankind by, among other things, overcoming gaps in research during the earliest phases of viral epidemics and ensuring the next generation of medical virologists are trained to meet these challenges." 

In addition to HIV, the Global Virus Network dedicates research toward all classes of human viruses, ranging from the Zika virus to HTLV-1, a virus linked to several diseases, including leukemia.

"As a member of the Global Virus Network, UB will develop new research collaborations with virology research centers around the world," said Morse, who is also co-director of the SUNY Global Health Institute and director of the UB Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences. "These opportunities will expand beyond HIV, Zika, Ebola and other emerging viral infections to include human and viral genomics, biosensors and data analytics, and novel nanomedicine development for drug delivery."

Gallo is most known for his groundbreaking work in the field of human retroviruses with his co-discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS and development of the HIV blood test, which enabled health care workers for the first time to screen and rapidly diagnose for HIV.

Prior to the AIDS epidemic, Gallo was the first person to identify a human retrovirus - HTLV, one of the few known viruses shown to cause a human cancer.

In 1986, he and his team discovered the first new human herpes virus in more than 25 years, HHV-6, which was later shown to cause an infantile disease known as Roseola and is currently believed to be a strong suspect in the origin of multiple sclerosis.

And in 1996, his discovery that a natural compound known as chemokines can block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS was hailed by Science magazine as one of the year's most important scientific breakthroughs.

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