Academic, Scientist, AIDS Research Pioneer (1952–)
Taiwanese AIDS researcher David Ho has made pioneering contributions to the understanding of HIV/AIDS and continues his work at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.
David Ho (Da-i Ho) was born in Taichung, Taiwan, to Paul and Sonia Ho. His father, who had worked in China as a translator for U.S. troops during World War II, immigrated to the United States in the mid-1950s. When David was 12 years old, he moved to California to reunite with his father. His father, Paul Ho, chose a new American name for his son; Da-i Ho to David Ho, thinking it was similar. The family initially settled in a largely black neighborhood in central Los Angeles.
David spent his first months of school unable to follow lessons in the unfamiliar language. He was ridiculed by his classmates for his inability to speak or understand, but within six months he had made progress in the language, and graduated with honors. After high school he was interested in physics and enrolled at the California Institute of Technology. David received his degrees from California Institute of Technology (1974) and Harvard Medical School (1978). Subsequently, he did his clinical training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at UCLA School of Medicine (1978-1982) and Massachusetts General Hospital (1982-1985), respectively. Shortly after, he decided to switch to molecular biology in order to pursue medicine.
After attending Harvard Medical School, Ho began his research on the HIV virus at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Ho's research in the late 1980s showed the world what HIV does in the body of an infected person. He realized that the virus infects and replicates constantly for years and years, ultimately wearing down the immune system. Dr. Ho shifted the attention from treating people during their final losing months of the disease and sought a way to fight the virus in the first stages of the infection. He devised the "cocktails" of protease inhibitors and other antiviral drugs to retard the advance of the virus upon the detection of HIV in the patient. The combination antiretroviral therapy that developed has resulted in dramatic reductions in AIDS-associated mortality in developed countries since 1996. Dr. Ho has published over 250 papers on AIDS research findings and continues to pursue therapeutic studies that attempt to eradicate HIV. In addition, his research team is now devoting considerable efforts to develop a vaccine to halt the spread of the AIDS epidemic.
In 1990, Ho became Founding Scientific Director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, based in New York City. For his groundbreaking accomplishments in AIDS treatment, TIME
magazine named Dr. Ho its 1996 "Man of the Year." He is also the Irene Diamond Professor of Medicine at Rockefeller University. The focus of his research has moved from the treatment of HIV to the development of vaccines for the disease.
Dr. Ho has received numerous honors and awards for his scientific accomplishments. He is the recipient of six honorary doctorates (including from Swarthmore, Tufts, Columbia, and University of Natal). He has been chosen as the commencement speaker at Caltech, MIT, and Harvard School of Public Health. Additional accolades include the Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine, Mayor's Award for Excellence in Science & Technology, the Squibb Award, and the Hoechst Marion Roussel Award. Dr. Ho has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academia Sinica (Republic of China), and the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science.
Currently, he serves on the Board of Overseers of Harvard University and Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology.
David Ho and his wife, artist Susan Kuo, currently live in Chappaqua, New York and have three children.
Photo from Rockefeller University, David Ho