amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Closing in on a Cure: amfAR Symposium Looks to Holy Grail of AIDS Research

Donor Symp 2011Mark Schoofs; Daria Hazuda, Ph.D.; Regan Hofmann; Keith Jerome, M.D., Ph.D.; and Martin Markowitz, M.D. An amfAR symposium on November 29 brought together leading scientists, advocates, journalists, and one extraordinary “patient” to discuss the holy grail of AIDS research: a cure. The symposium, titled “Making AIDS History: Closing in on a Cure,” featured a conversation between Timothy Brown, “The Berlin Patient,” who is recognized internationally as the first and only documented case of a person being cured of HIV, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, and Jeffrey Laurence, M.D., senior scientific consultant for programs at amfAR.

In 2006, while on treatment for HIV, Mr. Brown was diagnosed with leukemia, and his physician, Dr. Gero Hütter, had the cutting-edge idea of treating his leukemia with a stem cell transplant from a person who was born immune to HIV infection. Following the transplant, Mr. Brown was able to stop HIV treatment without experiencing a return of his HIV disease. His case provides the first proof of concept for a cure for HIV and has been the impetus for scientists and donors to begin working together toward a research goal previously thought impossible.  

Sharing his extraordinary story, Mr. Brown said he was gratified that his case was providing to people around the world living with HIV. It was a sentiment echoed by Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ magazine and amfAR board member, who participated in the second panel of the day and explained that as an HIV-positive woman, she is optimistic that continued investment in groundbreaking AIDS research will allow her to one day join Mr. Brown’s ranks as one of the cured.   

Ms. Hofmann shared the stage with Daria Hazuda, Ph.D., of Merck Research Labs; Keith Jerome, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Washington; and Martin Markowitz, M.D., of the Aaron Diamond Research Center in a panel discussion on the latest advances in research and the challenges that stand in the way of a cure. The panel was moderated by Mark Schoofs, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote the first news story about Timothy Brown for The Wall Street Journal in November 2008.  

The symposium, held in New York City and generously underwritten by Hublot and the Mandarin Oriental, New York, also featured a presentation by Carl W. Dieffenbach, Ph.D., director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, on the enormous progress that’s been made in 30 years of AIDS research.  

“The fact that we are here today is a measure of the tremendous advances we’ve made in our understanding of HIV over the last three decades,” said amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, who acknowledged the pioneering leadership of amfAR Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim and Founding International Chairman, the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor. “And it’s an affirmation of amfAR’s unshakeable belief in scientific solutions to AIDS.”  

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Schoofs interviews Dr. Daria J. Hazuda, Regan Hofmann, Dr. Keith R. Jerome, and Dr. Martin Markowitz.


Wrapping up the symposium, amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost set out amfAR’s vision for bringing the AIDS epidemic to an end.


ABC Chief Political Correspondent George Stephanopoulos interviews amfAR Senior Scientific Consultant Dr. Jeffrey Laurence and Timothy Brown, the so-called "Berlin Patient"—the first and only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection.