Su­per Mario is top of the profs

Ex­pert is lead­ing fight against HIV/AIDS

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Picture Special - Ju­dith Ton­ner

An Air­drie-born pro­fes­sor who is now a worldlead­ing re­searcher on HIV and AIDS has been named as Strath­clyde Univer­sity’s alum­nus of the year.

Pro­fes­sor Mario Stevenson re­ceived the hon­our at a re­cent grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony in recog­ni­tion of his con­tri­bu­tion to, and achieve­ments in, re­search­ing dis­ease.

He grew up in Air­drie and is a former pupil of St Patrick’s High in Coat­bridge, and is now chief of the in­fec­tious dis­eases di­vi­sion at Mi­ami Univer­sity.

In re­cent years, his work has fo­cused on strate­gies for the cure of HIV and AIDS, as well as de­vel­op­ing tests for Zika and drug-re­sis­tant viruses.

Pro­fes­sor Stevenson said: “An­tivi­rals have trans­formed the prog­no­sis for in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with HIV – life ex­pectancy for an in­fected in­di­vid­ual has in­creased by over 30 years. How­ever, in 2018 we still don’t have a cure that would rid the al­most 40 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide of their in­fec­tion, and we still don’t have a vac­cine that would pre­vent HIV.

“For that rea­son, health agen­cies around the world have taken on the bold task of de­vel­op­ing an AIDS vac­cine and cure.

“My own re­search over the past 10 years has been on iden­ti­fy­ing how HIV evades elim­i­na­tion by an­tiretro­vi­rals; how and where it hides out in in­fected in­di­vid­u­als, since an­swers to those ques­tions could lead to strate­gies for the cure.

“Some of my re­search is be­gin­ning to sug­gest that macrophages, the cell that I re­searched as a PhD stu­dent at Strath­clyde, may be part of the rea­son HIV can per­sist in in­di­vid­u­als in the face of an­tivi­ral sup­pres­sion.

“The iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of a cure for HIV/AIDS is ar­guably amongst the most im­por­tant sci­en­tific chal­lenges fac­ing re­searchers today.”

Pro­fes­sor Stevenson gained a doc­tor­ate in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sciences at Strath­clyde in 1984, and then went on to study at the Univer­sity of Nebraska med­i­cal cen­tre, where he served as a pro­fes­sor from 1993 to 1995.

He then joined Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts med­i­cal school and was di­rec­tor of its cen­tre for AIDS re­search from 15 years. He cur­rently serves on the trustee board of the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for AIDS Re­search.

To date, he has pub­lished more than 100 re­search pa­pers and has won nu­mer­ous pres­ti­gious awards, in­clud­ing fel­low­ships of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence, and the Amer­i­can Academy of Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy.

Strath­clyde’s alum­nus of the year award is made “in cel­e­bra­tion of the con­tri­bu­tions [re­cip­i­ents] make in their cho­sen fields, in the UK and over­seas.”

Pro­fes­sor Robin Plevin, head of Strath­clyde in­sti­tute of phar­macy and biomed­i­cal sciences, said: “Mario’s re­search is aimed at un­cov­er­ing how viruses per­sist de­spite drug treat­ments, why AIDS is so de­struc­tive to the hu­man im­mune sys­tem and what other fac­tors in­flu­ence how viruses in­ter­act with the hu­man host.

“His au­thor­ity does not stop at HIV; he’s also cur­rently lead­ing an in­ter­na­tional fight to de­velop a new test to di­ag­nose the Zika virus, trans­mit­ted pri­mar­ily by in­fected mosquitoes.

“What comes across is that he cares deeply for the peo­ple whose lives he is try­ing to im­prove or save through his re­search, or through em­pow­er­ing his stu­dents and staff to achieve greater ex­cel­lence in what they do.”

He cares deeply for the peo­ple..

Picture by Guy Hinks

Hon­our Pro­fes­sor Mario Stevenson

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