David Ho: A pioneer in AIDS research

david_ho_wideDavid Ho was born in Taiwan on November 3, 1952 to engineer Paul Ho, and his wife Sonia. His father left for the United States when he was only 5, with he and his family remaining in Taiwan until David was in the sixth grade, when they got their chance to come to America. He spent the rest of his youth in Los Angeles, and at age 22 he received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena, CA. He then went for his doctorate, and in 1978 he obtained his MD from Harvard Medical School. He would then spend the next 7 years in residency at the UCLA school of medicine, including a period at Cedars-Sinai medical center, and then went on to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he would witness some of the first documented cases of AIDS.

At first Dr. Ho researched ways to treat AIDS late in its cycle, but as time went by he began searching for ways to treat the disease before it became so debilitating to patients. He has done a considerable amount of research on AIDS, and has written nearly 400 papers focusing mostly on HIV’s life cycle. His biggest contribution to the fight was the discovery that protease inhibitors-a medication designed to stop certain kinds of enzymes found in HIV-could be combined with existing antiviral medications to treat HIV patients. This led to the creation of HAART in the mid 1990s, the famous “drug cocktail” which has saved millions of lives.

In 1996 he became a professor at Rockefeller university, a position he holds today. He is also the CEO and scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS research center. His team’s top priorities today include research into potential HIV vaccines, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in China, and studying antibodies that can combat HIV; one of the most prominent is called Ibalizumab, which is showing great potential in clinical studies, and is also being considered as a possible prophylactic for uninfected people.

Dr. Ho has received numerous honors for his work, including 13 honorary doctorates, the 1991 Ernst Jung prize, the Presidential citizens medal in 2001, and was even named Time magazine’s man of the year in 1996. He currently lives in New York City with his wife Susan, with whom he has had three children.