In 1981, the year that U.S. health officials recognize as the start of the AIDS epidemic, very few people understood the possible impact of the disease. “Back then… being infected with HIV was almost a death sentence. There was really no way that patients could be treated effectively,” explains John Corbin, a senior research scientist at Gilead. Caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, AIDS has since claimed the lives of more than 39 million people. The virus continues to affect the lives of more than 36 million people worldwide.
The epidemic inspired generations of scientists and researchers to dedicate their careers to developing safer, more effective treatments for HIV. Modern medicine has transformed the infection from a fatal and debilitating disease into a chronic, manageable condition. 10 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world are currently treated with a Gilead antiretroviral therapy.
Find out more about Gilead’s HIV research on our product pipeline page.
But today’s researchers are not content to stop there. “The culture at Gilead is that, until we’ve cured the disease, we haven’t done everything we can do,” says Corbin.
Current thinking focuses on finding ways to “kick and kill” the virus, which means waking up the HIV that lies dormant in latent reservoirs and helping the immune system to recognize and destroy it. The lead discovery process – searching for candidate molecules to develop into potential therapies - is a painstaking endeavor, but one that research scientists such as Helen Yu embrace. “It’s the data that drives the process, that drives the science, that drives the discovery.”
Gilead scientists share a collective intellectual curiosity and spirit of discovery. It’s what inspired them to enter the field, and it’s why they won’t stop until there is a cure for HIV.
Archival video footage supplied by the Bay Area Reporter.