Burt Dorman, a biophysical chemist, spent years running a successful company making animal vaccines to fight diseases like feline leukemia and vesicular stomatitis. He was looking to get out of the field when the AIDS epidemic hit in the 1980s. Dorman decided to stay and he helped play a role in the early hunt for a vaccine against the virus. Today new therapies like antiretroviral drugs have made HIV something that is possible to live with rather than a death sentence, at least in the developed world. And though no successful vaccine has been found, the search continues, albeit slowly.
Dorman is still pursuing a vaccine as well, though he is pushing an alternative approach that he argues the entire scientific community has largely abandoned, reports Wired. Dorman works by figuring out how to grow, kill and administer viruses in a way that sparks an immune response. But this method rarely attracts research dollars—funding is typically given to scientists who aim to break apart and rearrange the specific pieces of the virus and deliver those alongside enhancing agents.
For three decades, Dorman has been saying that “an equally diligent effort should be made to extract what we can from methods that have already been invented.” He is convinced that if the rest of the scientific community had joined him decades ago, millions of lives would have been saved. Dorman isn’t sure if he is right, but no one else knows either, so why not try?
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