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Vol. LIX, No. 17
August 24, 2007

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Fauci Receives National Medal of Science

On the front page...

When NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci began his investigations into the acquired immune deficiency syndrome in the early 1980s, he had no inkling that a quarter century later this research would help win him the highest U.S. honor in science. On July 27, he attended a White House ceremony where President George Bush awarded him a 2005 National Medal of Science.

After a 2-year selection process, Bush and a committee of 13 scientists chose to honor Fauci "for pioneering the understanding of the mechanisms whereby the human immune system is regulated, and for his work on dissecting the mechanisms of pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus that has served as the underpinning for the current strategies for the treatment of HIV disease." Fauci was among the thirty 2005 and 2006 National Medal of Science laureates honored at the ceremony for their work in science and technology.


  Dr. Anthony Fauci is honored by President Bush.  
  Dr. Anthony Fauci is honored by President Bush.  
Since the National Medal of Science was created by Congress in 1959, six NIH scientists have received the award. The legacy began in 1964 with Dr. Marshall Nirenberg, who later won the Nobel Prize. The next four awardees included: Dr. Kenneth S. Cole of NINDS in 1967; Dr. Bernard Brodie of what was then the National Heart Institute in 1968; Dr. Robert J. Huebner of NCI in 1969; and Dr. Earl R. Stadtman of the heart institute in 1979. Fauci is the first NIAID scientist-as well as the first NIH scientist in nearly 30 years-to receive this award.

Fauci launched his career at NIAID in 1968 after graduating from Cornell Medical School and completing an internship and residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. As a newcomer to NIH, he conducted research on the complex functions of the human immune system. The conditions that cause our immune systems to malfunction fascinated him and he pursued projects on immunological diseases about which scientists knew relatively little. His laboratory investigations and clinical trials led to life-saving treatments for immune-mediated diseases such as Wegener's granulomatosis.

When AIDS was recognized in the early 1980s, mysteriously deteriorating the immune system of those infected, it initially seemed concentrated in certain populations, including gay men and intravenous drug users. Fauci changed the direction of his basic and clinical research and delineated many of the pathogenic mechanisms of HIV disease. Also, at that time, activists were frustrated with the lack of access to life-saving drugs and the output of AIDS research. In response, Fauci, who had become NIAID director in 1984, asked for an increase in government funding and talked with the activists to learn more about the pain and damage the disease had caused and to hear their ideas about treatment and prevention.

In a 2002 interview with the magazine of his undergraduate alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross, Fauci emphasized that these interactions were invaluable to science and his professional growth. "I went to San Francisco, to the Castro district, and I discussed the problems they were having, the degree of suffering that was going on in the community, [and] the need for them to get involved in clinical trials, since there were no other possibilities for them to get access to drugs."

His efforts helped improve health care for HIV-infected individuals and sparked the dialogue between AIDS activists and NIH officials that remains strong today.

Fauci treats patients and heads a research laboratory focused on HIV/AIDS, in addition to carrying out his administrative duties as NIAID director. His career of scientific enterprise and leadership has resulted in many people around the world leading healthier lives. NIH Record Icon

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