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Tramont Named Director of AIDS Division

By Jeff Minerd

Dr. Edmund C. Tramont brings a blend of military, academic and entrepreneurial experiences to his new job as director of the Division of AIDS (DAIDS), part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Tramont, who took the new position on July 6, was instrumental in developing eight experimental vaccines, two of which are now licensed. He worked to strengthen Maryland's emerging biotech industry; consulted on operation Desert Storm; and once, as a young resident in 1968, helped care for the ailing former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Tramont will oversee an estimated $444 million global research program involving hundreds of clinical trials with the aim of treating, preventing and better understanding HIV/AIDS. "The DAIDS program has been enormously successful," he said. "For example, DAIDS has been critical to our understanding of how HIV causes disease, to creating antiretroviral drugs, and in preventing mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, to name only a few contributions. My challenge is to build on that legacy."

Dr. Edmund C. Tramont

Tramont comes from a family of architects and builders, and as an undergraduate, he originally studied sanitary engineering. But a required course in microbiology changed the direction of his life. "That course was so fascinating that I switched from engineering to pre-med. This was in my junior year. I had to go back and start over, taking all the pre-med courses."

Tramont received his B.S. from Rutgers University in 1962 and his M.D. from Boston University in 1966.

In 1968, he was drafted into the army and began a residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His first patient was Eisenhower. The former President suffered from heart problems, and Tramont's job was to sit with him day and night, monitoring his condition. "We talked about golf, war, politics, life in general. He said to me, 'If you're lucky, the army is a good deal.' He was right."

Tramont spent the next 23 years in the army, working primarily to develop vaccines that would protect soldiers from sexually transmitted diseases and other illnesses. "At the time, the army was developing more vaccines than anyone else," he said. He established an infectious disease program at Walter Reed, and he was instrumental in creating the combined meningococcal vaccine. He also designed and implemented vaccine trials for gonorrhea, shigella and HIV. During the Desert Storm operation, he served as a consultant on infectious disease issues.

After retiring from the army in 1991, he became a professor at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI), where he served as director of the institute's Medical Biotechnology Center. Much of that job entailed forging connections between academic researchers and Maryland's growing biotechnology industry. He continued his vaccine research and was involved in founding two biotech companies during that time. In 1998, he became co-director of the vaccine division at the Institute of Human Virology, also part of UMBI.

Tramont replaces former DAIDS director Dr. John Y. Killen, Jr., who has assumed the position of associate director for research ethics at NIAID.

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