Volume 19 - Number 2

April - June 2017


HIV/AIDS researcher Mark Wainberg passed away

Philippe Halfon and Vicente Soriano   |Full Article in PDF|

Infectious Diseases Department, Hôpital Européen, Marseille, France


Pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher Mark Wainberg died on April 12 at age 71. Dr. Wainberg drowned while swimming in Bal Harbour, Florida. Dr. Wain- berg’s family was with him and his son even tried to rescue him, but it was too late. At the time of his death, Dr. Wainberg 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. Dr. Wainberg was among the first to identify the antiviral properties of lamivudine in 1989. This drug has contributed to saving millions of lives worldwide. Dr. Wainberg also contributed significantly to the field of HIV drug resistance, including the identification of many of the mutations in the HIV genome that fuel drug resistance. In more recent years, Dr. Wain- berg turned his attention to attempts to achieve a cure for HIV infection. His hypothesis was based on the possibility that HIV may not be able to become resistant to some integrase inhibitors. Dr. Wainberg served as president of the International AIDS Society from 1998 to 2000. During the Durban conference, he highlighted the many difficulties for accessing antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa and pushed pharmaceutical companies to deliver their drugs cheaper to those countries. He was a member of the WHO committee of an- tiretroviral therapy, prevention of AIDS and control of HIV resistance in emerging countries. He served as president of the scientific committee of the Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le SIDA et les Hépatites Virales (ANRS) in France from 2003 to 2008. He was appointed “Chevalier dans la Légion d’Honneur de la France” in 2008. Dr. Wainberg was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2015. Dr. Wainberg received many awards, specifically from the Institute for Scientific Information, as the most cited researcher in microbiology and infectious diseases. He published more than 650 articles in peer-reviewed journals. At the time of his passing, Dr. Wainberg was editor-in-chief of the Journal of the International AIDS Society, editor of Retrovirology and member of the editorial board of our journal, AIDS Reviews. In order to reduce the HIV epidemic, he was one of the pioneers and defenders of the use of “pre- exposure prophylaxis”, which is currently in clinical practice and approved in many Western countries. We had the chance to meet him many times and collaborate with him in several projects. We were always impressed by his boundless work motivation and multiple language skills. Having lost his life while relaxing seems somewhat paradoxical to us. In the Jewish tradition, a good rename is better than good oil and the day of death is better than the day of birth. It was a lesson that a man received three names: the first was given by his parents, the second by others, and the third by history. Altogether, it means the name he has acquired reflects his behavior during his life (Kohelet, King Solomon). Mark was not only a great scientist but also an exceptional human being who touched so many lives and will be long remembered. We hope that Dr. Wainberg’s family will find some comfort from these words that will inevitably fall short of the true measure of respect and admiration that we harbor for a person who has done so much for humanity. Mark, we never will forget your smile and joy of living! May your soul be with God’s peace.

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