Fil-Am scientist joins TIME 100 for HIV breakthrough
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III wasn't the only person of Filipino descent in this year's TIME 100 Most Influential People list.
Filipino-American Katherine Luzuriaga, one of the 3 scientists who reported the first ever recorded "functional cure" in an infant with HIV, was also honored by the magazine in its annual list.
Luzuriaga, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was cited by the magazine under its "Pioneers" list, along with fellow doctors Deborah Persaud and Hannah Gay, for their breakthrough in HIV/AIDS research.
She has been one of the world's leading scientists dealing with pediatric HIV/AIDS research, having been involved in the said field for more than two decades.
"These three women are responsible for orchestrating an incredible breakthrough: functionally curing a newborn of AIDS," Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, wrote in the group's citation.
Their study involved a baby born in a rural Mississippi hospital back in 2010, whose mother was HIV-positive. The infant was given a regimen of AIDS drugs from shortly after birth until 18 months. Five months after end of treatment, the baby was already HIV-negative.
The child, who is now 2 1/2 years old, is still HIV-free. The development surprised the world, and gave hope for thousands of HIV-positive babies worldwide.
When the TIME 100 list was released, Filipinos were abuzz only about Aquino's inclusion in it, primarily because her being Fil-Am was not explicitly stated in the magazine (TIME even lists Caracas, Venezuela as her birthplace).
The FilAm magazine was the first to report about her Filipino roots in an interview published Thursday, April 25.
Her father traces his roots to Bacolod City, the magazine said. Luzuriaga, on the other hand, grew up in Manila, and is an alumna of the International School. She then went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tufts University.
"We consider this a great achievement," she told the magazine during the TIME 100 gala in New York City, adding that it is an honor "to have our work considered to be of great influence. To a scientist, that means a lot." The 3 scientists, along with dozens other honorees, were feted at the event.
Luzuriaga said their work on HIV/AIDS research will continue. "One of the things about the finding is that it points the way to new studies that we can do and we’d like to go on and continue to make progress again for pediatric HIV infection," she told The FilAm.
"Together, we are committed to eradicating pediatric HIV infection and improving child health globally," she said in a statement shortly after the list was announced.
The list, published annually by the magazine since 2003, is a rundown of some of the world's most influential individuals, from the arts to politics to science. - with reports from KD Suarez/Rappler.com