Carrying on the quest for an HIV vaccine
Donald Francis, SD ’79, has been in the front lines of the battle against AIDS since 1981 and was one of the first scientists to suggest that the then-mysterious disease was caused by an infectious agent. In the early 1980s, Francis directed the AIDS laboratory at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After the Institut Pasteur identified HIV, he worked closely with the French researchers to prove that HIV was indeed the agent that caused AIDS. He was one of the first doctors to warn that HIV threatened the nation’s blood supply.
Francis’ early efforts to call attention to the threat of AIDS and warn of the inadequacy of the public health response were chronicled in Randy Shilts’ book And the Band Played On (St. Martin’s Press, 1987), a seminal account of the early years of the epidemic that was later made into a film.
Following a 21-year career with the CDC, Francis moved into the private sector in 1992 to work full time on developing a vaccine for HIV.