Lecture Notes | Dr. Seth Berkley talks about finding an AIDS vaccine


For years, the Arthur Ashe Endowment-Christopher L. Barley, M.D. Lecture series has brought some of the most prominent AIDS activists, doctors and healthcare workers to Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospitals to speak in honor of World AIDS day and month. This year was no different as Dr. Seth Berkley, the President, CEO and founder of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), came to speak about the difficulties, process and newest developments in the search for a vaccine against AIDS. Attended primarily by doctors and employees of the hospital, the lecture offered an opportunity to hear about not only the scientific advancements in the work towards a vaccine, but also to hear about the policy and political issues that are also of great importance to fighting AIDS.

Dr. Berkley began by giving an overview of the biology of the AIDS virus, emphasizing that AIDS is the most complicated organism that we (humans) have ever attempted to vaccinate. The structure of the virus itself is many times more intricate and complicated than for instance,. The origins of IAVI come from his work at the Rockefeller Foundation researching the disease and various efforts to combat it in the early 1990s. Because of its intricacy and its rapid spread to become a pandemic during that period, he realized that an unprecedented effort to share and organize resources, research, policy analysis and advocacy would be necessary in order to defeat AIDS.

Based on that he helped found IAVI in 1996, a nonprofit organization that coordinates researchers and shares data, funnels funding and resources toward different projects working on vaccines, helps design and execute testing trials and engages and educates the communities where trials are taking place. It functions as a consortium uniting laboratories, academic institutions, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, governments, advocates and communities to approach the problem through collaboration. The idea is to use a comprehensive approach to eliminate AIDS, not only relying upon finding the perfect vaccine or treatment but also ensuring that it is available and affordable to the people who need it.

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