The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) mourns the tragic death of our friend and colleague, Professor Job Joab Bwayo, co-founder and director of the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) in Nairobi, Kenya. Prof. Bwayo, a passionate AIDS advocate, dedicated much of his distinguished career to developing an HIV vaccine for communities throughout the African continent. Killed in a senseless act of violence on Sunday evening, February 4, he was unwavering in his belief that Kenya had a significant contribution to make to the global effort to end the AIDS pandemic, and was instrumental in building a world class clinical research facility in the country.
"This is a devastating loss for the entire AIDS vaccine field," said Seth F. Berkley, President and CEO of IAVI. "Prof. Bwayo, a warm and engaging man, was a talented scientist, working diligently to find a final solution to the AIDS crisis. Under his stewardship, KAVI has played a leading role in driving research for AIDS vaccines globally."
Born in the Bungoma District, Prof. Bwayo was a frequent lecturer at the University of Nairobi and former chairman of the Department of Medical Microbiology, College of Health Sciences. He also served as co-director of the Regional AIDS Training Network for STD/AIDS and as a senior member of the World Health Organization Collaborative Centre for STD/HIV Research Training. Prof. Bwayo's research interests included the epidemiology of sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV in men and women in Kenya, intervention studies to control and prevent STD/HIV infection, and immunobiology. He is the author of dozens of publications on public health issues and HIV/AIDS.
"Kenya's well-earned prominence in the global HIV vaccine research arena is a great testimony to Prof. Bwayo's scientific leadership and determination, and to his broad vision that getting a vaccine required understanding and commitment across all of Kenyan society, as well as strong research partnerships to bring African and international capabilities together," said Geoffrey Lamb, Chairman of the Board, IAVI. "What a great achievement, and what a bitter loss."
"Prof. Bwayo's contributions to fighting the AIDS epidemic and more recently to the HIV vaccine field will be remembered," said Pontiano Kaleebu, Chairman of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme. "He was very active in our AAVP activities, especially in the development of national strategic frameworks. His critical work in shaping HIV vaccine policy in East Africa will be one of his many lasting legacies."
A Kenya-based research organization developed under the University of Nairobi and in collaboration with IAVI and Oxford University, KAVI is one of the premier AIDS vaccine development organizations in East Africa. Led by Prof. Bwayo, it strongly endorsed links among Kenya scientists, community organizations and the greater global AIDS vaccine research and development field. Its successes included helping to conduct the first five AIDS vaccine trials in Kenya, beginning in 2001; building a world-class, accredited laboratory facility and scientific infrastructure to prepare for larger-scale trials; establishing rigorous quality control programs; and, contributing to Kenya's National AIDS Vaccine Plan.
"Dr. Bwayo was a renowned leader in the AIDS community, in the AIDS vaccine development field and in his own country, understanding that Kenya was at the forefront of AIDS research and discovery," concluded Berkley. "He often commented, 'HIV vaccine development is a marathon, not a sprint and — as we all know — Kenyans are very good at marathons.' IAVI and KAVI will continue to work together to find an effective AIDS vaccine, our best hope of ending the AIDS epidemic — a goal Prof. Bwayo, above all else, cherished."