In an attempt to combat one of the world's deadliest diseases, HIV/ AIDS, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, have named Eric Arts, one of the world's leading HIV investigators, as its chairperson. Eric Arts holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunolgy from Western University.
Schulich Dean Michael Strong said, "What Eric brings to the school is a whole range of different strengths. From the research side of the equation, we have a strong history here already in HIV research and virology and, in particular, looking at new treatment modalities. What Eric brings is an entirely new area of strength so that we have different ways of thinking about the virus and how it might be dealt with. From a leadership side, it is always important to be looking outside of your own walls for leadership - for new ideas and for people who bring things to the game that we haven't quite got here yet. If you look at our school, one of the rich histories we have is in Microbiology and Immunology. What Eric brings is the next level to that."
Eric Arts, in 1986, entered Professor Antony Ridgeway's laboratory. He was unaware that he would be researching HIV/ AIDS as he had gone in with an intention of researching cancer. He was surprised at the request of researching HIV by the professor as it was discovered just two years before that. This huge moment solidified his research career.
Eric Arts said, "We've found that the strain of HIV that spreads most aggressively within populations, which is the one most dominant in southern Africa, eastern Africa, India, Brazil and China, actually causes the slowest disease progression. The findings show that the expansion of HIV in the human population is directly related to how long a patient lives with the virus and can transmit it to others." The HIV epidemic is expanding massively all around the world with over 33 million people affected by it and it seems to be growing rapidly, increasing the number of people suffering from it by nearly one million every year.
"One of the interesting aspects for us is the evolutionary biology in the virus, and how that impacts things like disease progression in a patient, how the virus changes, how the patients progress, how they respond to drugs, how we can design vaccines based on the evolution of the virus," Arts said. He is trying to balance optimism with reality. He is trying to design a way of creating vaccine such that it is personalised for every patient so that the remaining parts of the virus is eliminated from the patient's body while undergoing long-term treatment.
Over the last one year, Eric Arts has made a lot of discoveries that have been supported by the American Foundation of AIDS research and various pharmaceutical companies and he hopes to move forward and begin his clinical trials within this year, 2014.