One of the world’s leading researchers on HIV and AIDS has been named the University of Strathclyde’s Alumnus of the Year.
Professor Mario Stevenson, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Miami, has received the award from his alma mater in recognition of his achievements in researching disease, notably AIDS/HIV.
He has published more than 100 research papers and has won numerous awards for his work, which began during his time as a PhD student at Strathclyde.
In recent years, Professor Stevenson has been focusing on strategies for the cure of HIV/AIDS and has been developing test for Zika and drug resistant viruses, reflecting the status of health and wellbeing as one of Strathclyde’s strategic themes.
Professor Stevenson gained a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Strathclyde in 1984. He received the Alumnus of the Year award during a graduation ceremony at Strathclyde on Monday 25 June.
The award is made annually in celebration of the contributions which the University's alumni make in their chosen fields, in the UK and overseas.
Professor Stevenson said: “Prior to the advent of antiretroviral drug cocktails, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 25 and 44. There are 37 million people infected worldwide. The antivirals have transformed the prognosis for individuals living with HIV. Life expectancy for an infected individual has increased by over 30 years due to antivirals."
“However, in 2018, we still don’t have a cure that would rid the almost 40 million people worldwide of their infection, and we still don’t have a vaccine that would prevent HIV infection."
“For that reason, health agencies around the world have taken on the bold task of developing an AIDS vaccine and cure. My own research over the past 10 years has been on identifying how HIV evades elimination by antiretrovirals; how and where it hides out in infected individuals on antiretroviral drugs, since answers to those questions could lead to strategies for the cure of HIV."
“Some of my research is beginning to suggest that macrophages, the cell that I researched as a PhD student here at Strathclyde, may be part of the reason HIV can persist in individuals in the face of antiviral suppression."
“The identification of a cure for HIV/AIDS is arguably amongst the most important scientific challenges facing researchers today, a challenge that will take persistence and stubbornness- qualities that I acquired in abundance since my days as a PhD student here at Strathclyde.”
Professor Robin Plevin, Head of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, presented Professor Stevenson for the award. He said: “Mario’s research is aimed at uncovering how viruses persist despite drug treatments, why AIDS is so destructive to the human immune system and what other factors influence how viruses interact with the human host.
“His authority does not stop at HIV; he’s also currently leading an international fight to develop a new test to diagnose the Zika virus which came to prominence at the 2016 RIO Olympic Games; a disease caused by a virus transmitted primarily by infected mosquitoes.
“Despite Mario’s undoubted success, what comes across is that he cares deeply - for the people whose lives he is trying to improve or save through his research, or through empowering his students and staff to achieve greater excellence in what they do.”
Professor Stevenson grew up in Airdrie and attended St Patrick’s High School in Coatbridge. After graduating from Strathclyde, he studied at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, before serving as professor there from 1993 to 1995.
Professor Stevenson joined the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1995 and was Director of its Center for AIDS Research from 1995-2010.
Awards he has received for his research include the Gertrude Elion Distinguished Lecturer Award in 2008, Harvard’s Shipley Award, the National Institute of Health Merit Award in 2000 and Fellowships of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.
Professor Stevenson currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.