January 12, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 2

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HSC investigator earns Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award

Dr. Sunil Ahuja, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at the Health Science Center, is one of four scientists in the nation this year to receive the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award from the world-renowned Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. This is the first time a Health Science Center faculty member has been selected for this prestigious award.

Adam Coyne, communications manager for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS 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 award will provide Dr. Ahuja with $650,000 over a five-year period for research devoted to determining some of the genetic mechanisms that might influence why some children acquire HIV from their mothers during childbirth whereas others do not.

Each year Elizabeth Glaser Scientists meet with the foundation's internationally renowned advisory board to collaborate, stimulate ideas and look at new ways to find answers. Coyne said the foundation is building an invaluable network of Elizabeth Glaser Scientists who will continue to impact HIV/AIDS research long after individual grants have been utilized.

Dr. Ahuja's research group of faculty, staff and students 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 with 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 and am very proud of, and grateful to, my collaborators and research team," Dr. Ahuja said. "My role is minimal. This is truly a reflection of all their hard work and their dedication to researching pediatric AIDS. We are collectively honored to be able 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 children, one of whom later succumbed at the age of 7. Faced with this situation, she and two friends worked tirelessly to raise funds for pediatric AIDS research. Together they co-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.

The foundation created the Elizabeth Glaser Scientist Award as a tribute to Glaser's courage and to further carry on her legacy. The award is the only award developed specifically and exclusively to help fund pediatric AIDS research.

The five-year duration of the award is a means of building an invaluable network of scientists, whose collaboration and determination will bring solutions to the most critical challenges in 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.

More details about Dr. Sunil Ahuja's studies are available at http://www.uthscsa.edu/opa/releases. Search for "Ahuja."