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AIDS investigator wins Glaser Scientist Award (1-24-01)

Sunil Ahuja, M.D., associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has received the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award from the California-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. He is the first Glaser winner from the Health Science Center.

Adam Coyne, communications manager for the Glaser Foundation, said the award is the foundation’s highest honor, and was created to establish a team of outstanding scientists who work together and focus on resolving critical pediatric AIDS research issues.

“Dr. Ahuja’s work has tremendous promise,” Coyne said. “The foundation is acknowledging the high caliber of HIV/AIDS research being conducted by Dr. Ahuja, his research team and his collaborators.”

The five-year, $650,000 award will support research to determine genetic mechanisms that might influence why some children acquire HIV from their mothers during childbirth while others do not.

Dr. Ahuja’s Health Science Center research group includes Dr. Enrique Gonzalez, Dr. Srinivas Mummidi, Dr. Naoko Sato, Dr. Gabriel Catano, Dr. Marlon Quinones, Dr. Maria Rodriguez, Kazi Begum, Vanessa Telles, Reni Geevarghese, LeeAnn Lam, Jammie Barnes, Angelina Hoefle, Korey Ullrich, Charlene Hensler and Carlos Condello. The team has close collaborations with Dr. Seema Ahuja, assistant professor at the Health Science Center; Dr. Luisa Sen, chief of the retrovirology lab at a premier pediatric hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Lt. Col. Matthew Dolan, chief of infectious diseases at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio.

“I am very pleased that we have received this award,” Dr. Ahuja said. “My role is minimal. This is truly a reflection of all the research team’s hard work and dedication to researching pediatric AIDS. We are honored to carry on the legacy of Elizabeth Glaser.”

In the mid-1980s Elizabeth Glaser, wife of actor Paul Glaser (of “Starsky and Hutch” fame), learned that she and both of her children were HIV-positive. She contracted the virus through a blood transfusion while giving birth, and passed it to her two children, one of whom died at the age of 7. Faced with this situation, she and two friends worked tirelessly to raise funds for pediatric AIDS research. Together they founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation in 1988. In 1994 Elizabeth died. Three years later, the foundation was officially named in Elizabeth’s honor.

Today the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, funding and conducting critical pediatric AIDS research.

Coyne said this year’s four honorees join the 21 current Elizabeth Glaser Scientists who are working together to ensure that the world’s next generation of children is born free of HIV/AIDS, and that children already living with HIV/AIDS will grow to enjoy a healthy adulthood.

Contact: Will Sansom or Natalie Gutierrez