American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
David D. Ho, PhD
2000 AACC Lectureship Award

David D. Ho, MD, received this year’s award, supported by an educational grant from Bayer Diagnostics.

Dr. Ho received his BS in Physics from the California Institute of Technology and his MD from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA School of Medicine in 1981. From 1982 to 1986, he was a clinical and research fellow in medicine and an instructor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard. He was Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA before joining New York University as Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Research.

In 1990, he was selected to head the newly established Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York City. He currently is Director and Chief Executive Officer of that institution as well as a professor at The Rockefeller University.

Dr. Ho has spent his career in AIDS research, a field in which he has demonstrated such success that he was selected as Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1996.

His interest in this disease began in the early 1980s, when he encountered patients in hospitals with a mysterious, fatal illness that only later would be identified and named AIDS. In the next few years at Harvard and UCLA, Dr. Ho studied the virus in addition to his other responsibilities. He was one of the first people in the world to isolate the AIDS-causing virus, HIV.

At the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, he leads a team of some 50 world-class researchers studying this unique disease. Under Dr. Ho’s direction, researchers at the Diamond Center have elucidated how the virus replicates within the body, how it invades lymphocytes, and many other crucial aspects of its pathology.

But perhaps Dr. Ho’s most important contribution has been to overturn the conventional wisdom that the effects of the AIDS infection take years to surface because the virus is dormant in its early stages. Dr. Ho showed that the virus is always active and that the immune system is constantly fighting the virus off until it is finally overwhelmed. Based on this insight, Dr. Ho conceived the approach of attacking this fast-mutating virus with a combination of state-of-the-art drugs in the earliest stages of infection. The success of the drug cocktail treatment and other advances have fundamentally changed the way we view AIDS. Although we are still far from having a cure, we no longer regard this infection as the virtual death sentence it first appeared, and it is even possible to reduce the virus to undetectable concentrations in blood, semen, and lymph tissues.

Dr. Ho has received the Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine and the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, and has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 publications. He has served on a variety of AIDS-related committees, including the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development.