|Office of NIH History|
Dr. Robert Gallo
I do think we know a lot about AIDS. I think it is much more than people have portrayed recently. I think there is a tremendous wealth of knowledge about the biology of this virus and also about the molecular biology, and even about how it works. But that does not mean that we know anywhere near enough yet. I would like to point out the obvious, that you could know everything about the virus and not be able to solve anything. You might say, “That doesn't seem right?” But I once gave as an example to Nature magazine that I could know all there is to know about the Himalayas, every hole, every cave, every rock, their history, their origin, their evolution, its future, but I would not be able to climb these mountains until somebody else developed a new technology for me, such as the helicopter. It does not mean that if we gain every bit of understanding of the pathogenesis of AIDS that we are going to get to a cure. However, it is obvious that the more we understand, the greater the probability that we can climb the Himalaya mountains. It increases the probability of that occurring.
It is a tremendously difficult problem. If you think of any virus that persists, how many can you get rid of? Virtually none. If you have a persistent virus, by definition, you cannot get rid of it. We do not have therapy that gets rid of many viruses. But the AIDS virus is a nastier one and can kill. It is nastier than many other viruses, so we need to develop a whole new area of research, and that is antiviral therapy. AIDS will be the juggernaut of that. The timing is right because we know much of the molecular biology of the replication cycle of many viruses. I think AIDS will take the lead and that there will be spin-offs to other areas of virology. That will happen as surely as we are sitting here.
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