April 13, 2017

IAVI Mourns the Passing of Major Force in HIV Science Dr. Mark Wainberg

The world lost a leader in the fight against AIDS this week with the passing of Dr. Mark  Wainberg. The pioneering Canadian researcher is widely recognized for his involvement in the 1989 identification of antiviral drug Lamivudine, which is now one of the most extensively used drugs  in  treating  HIV  and its co-infections.

“Dr.  Wainberg’s  passing is a tremendous loss for the scientific community,” said IAVI President and CEO Mark Feinberg. “His extraordinary contributions to the field of HIV research and development  continue to be an inspiration to me and to all who knew him.  Discoveries  stemming  from  his  investigations and collaborations  have significantly advanced treatment, prevention and cure research.”

Among  these contributions  was the identification of  several  mutations in the HIV genome that are responsible for drug resistance.  In recent years, he  also  turned his attention to  researching  a potential HIV cure based on the possibility that HIV may be unable to form resistance to  compounds called integrase inhibitors that block  viral  replication.

Eric Goosby, Chair of IAVI’s Board of Directors and UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis, also remembered Wainberg. “Mark was an unusually personable member of the global research community, one whose informality masked the magnitude of his scientific accomplishments,” Goosby said. “He was one of a very small number of basic research scientists to become so actively involved in the political, social, and personal dimensions of the epidemic, a level of commitment that, in turn, sharpened his scientific insight.”

His commitment to the  worldwide  AIDS  response  extended  beyond science  into advocacy, with a direct impact on IAVI.  In 2003  Wainberg  joined a group of multi-sector experts on IAVI’s inaugural  Policy Advisory Committee  to guide the organization’s  linked  activities in both global advocacy and policy research.  This followed his influential term as  President of the International AIDS Society (1998-2000), which helped catalyze expanded HIV treatment access for developing countries.

Wainberg, 71,  was the head of AIDS research at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, director of the McGill University AIDS Center at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital, and professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.