HIV: Moving the Field Ahead

When Dr. David Margolis published a paper in The Lancet in 2005, he used a four-letter word that generated tremendous backlash.

“Some felt it was irresponsible to use the word ‘cure,’ even mentioned only once in the whole article,” Margolis said. “They felt I was giving people living with HIV false hope. But it was time to come out and say that this was the ultimate goal.”

Ten years later, in 2015, David and his counterparts at the pharmaceutical giant Glaxo SmithKline announced the creation of Qura Therapeutics, via a unique public-private partnership, dedicated to what Margolis mentioned in that article — finding a cure for HIV. The field’s shift from seeing HIV cure as unspeakable, to the stated goal of a durable, multi-million dollar partnership has been a long road for Margolis and his colleagues.

“The early part of my career was spent trying to keep people alive as new drugs were developed to hold HIV at bay and treat the assortment of opportunistic infectious that came along with AIDS,” Margolis said.

In the lab, Margolis focused on understanding how the virus is controlled in a cell. He worked relentlessly for seven years when he made a monumental discovery — the histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzyme aids HIV latency. His study investigating the use of HDAC inhibitor valproic acid to reduce the latent viral reservoir led to the groundbreaking finding published in The Lancet. The research significantly moved the field forward.

“It’s about moving the field ahead,” he said. “You don’t know what you can achieve until you try.”

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