Tag Archives: Max Essex

Curiosity Saved the Cats

The untold story of how Max  Essex, some cat ladies, and a small team of researchers saved the lives of millions of felines—and helped identify the cause of AIDS.

By Genevieve Rajewski

In the 1970s, a little-understood virus was the number one killer of cats in the United States. So little was known about it that, in 1970, when an elderly woman first started bringing cats sick with cancer to Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston—the original veterinary teaching hospital for Tufts—there was next to nothing that her veterinarian, Susan Cotter, could do. Read the complete story in TuftsNow.

Illustration by James Steinberg

 

Consider the Lab Notebook

Stack of Lab Notebooks

“Good science requires good record keeping.”¹

The laboratory notebook has changed little over hundreds of years. Part journal, part scrapbook, it is a record of both what a researcher thinks and what she does. It documents her day-to-day hypotheses, experiments, observations, analyses, and conclusions. Think of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of a flying machine or Darwin’s detailed field notes from his voyage on the Beagle. In today’s modern laboratories, researchers use the same kind of bound paper notebook to document their work.

The 1876 notebook of Alexander Graham Bell, who patented the first practical telephone.

The 1876 notebook of Alexander Graham Bell, who patented the first practical telephone.

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A Better Test for Zika

Max Essex and Wei-Kung Wang

Wei-Kung Wang’s Work on Flaviviruses

By Martha Henry

Timing is everything. Dr. Wei-Kung Wang returned to Harvard in early March, just as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

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Aldatu Licenses Technology from Harvard

One Step Closer to Affordable HIV DrugResistance Test

By Martha Henry

Harvard recently entered into a licensing agreement with Aldatu Biosciences for exclusive use of the PANDAA technology. Using PANDAA, Aldatu, a biotech start-up based at LabCentral in Cambridge, is developing a rapid HIV drug-resistance test for patients failing first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART).

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Florence Revisited: America’s History of HIV Travel Restrictions

Scientists and protesters at 1991 International AIDS Conference in Florence

By Martha Henry

Over 18,000 people met in Durban, South Africa this July for the 21st International AIDS Conference. We look back to a time 25 years ago, when protesters at the 1991 meeting threatened a boycott because of severe U.S. restrictions for HIV-positive travelers.
The mood in Florence was combative. It was June 1991. Scientists, activists and reporters had gathered in Italy to share the latest findings at the International AIDS Conference. Unfortunately, there were no breakthroughs to announce. Continue reading

Jonathan You: Health Justice and the Importance of Being Heard

Jonathan You at work in the Essex Lab

By Martha Henry

Teenagers aren’t generally known for their self-awareness and commitment to service. Jonathan You is an exception.

The nineteen-year-old rising junior at Harvard is majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. “My academic interest in global health was sparked by Case Studies in Global Health: Biosocial Perspectives, a class that provided me with novel viewpoints on healthcare inequity and social medicine,” he said.

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Botswana Leads in HIV Treatment

From left: Lyorlumun Uhaa, UNICEF; Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS; Max Essex, Harvard AIDS Initiative; Pride Chigwedere, UNAIDS, at a meeting for African Leaders in Addis Ababa. Photo by Aida Muluneh

By Martha Henry

Billions of dollars are spent every year on HIV/AIDS treatment programs. But how well are they working?
In the African country of Botswana, where 25% of adults (aged 16-49) are HIV positive, the answer is extremely well. In a recent paper in The Lancet HIV, researchers showed that Botswana is close to reaching the ambitious UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals. Continue reading

The Blood in the Freezer

BHP Lab Technician

By Martha Henry

One tiny vial of blood contains a remarkable amount of genetic information about both the person from whom it was drawn and infectious agents like HIV circulating at the time of the needle prick. Because HIV mutates so quickly, having access to lots of samples to study is a valuable resource.

“It’s a diamond for science,” said Sikhulile Moyo, Laboratory Manager at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP). He was referring to the blood samples banked in the BHP freezers. “Specimens would be a more accurate term,” he corrected, “biological samples freely given to be processed for diagnosis or disease monitoring.”

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After the Capture: The Care and Treatment of Data

Erik van Widenfelt

By Martha Henry

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay!”
~ Sherlock Holmes

Science depends on data. A large clinical trial like the Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP) depends on lots of data. When the multi-year trial in 30 Botswana villages concludes, researchers hope their data will provide a better understanding of how to prevent HIV infections. Continue reading

Essex Stresses Infectious Diseases to New Grads

Max Essex speaks at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine’s graduation ceremony 2016.

Max Essex gave the keynote address to the graduating class of 60 physicians at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine on Friday, May 6, 2016 in Huntington, West Virginia. Essex, the Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard, is a noted AIDS researcher and Chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health AIDS Initiative.

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