The year was 1984. I was finishing my medical genetics training at Yale, working on the molecular genetics of disorders of human hemoglobin. I was at a job interview at the University of Michigan when one of the senior professors asked what my lifetime goal was. "To contribute to scientific advances that would lead to a cure for sickle cell disease in Africa," I said. The professor laughed and said I was a hopeless dreamer.
That same year I saw my first case of HIV/AIDS. It was heartbreaking. This young man was wasting away in front of us, his body ravaged by infections that were taking advantage of his devastated immune system. There was little we could do, and he died in just a few weeks. I promised myself if there was ever a chance to help find a cure, I would do so.
Fast forward to today. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have just embarked on a bold 10-year program to develop gene-based approaches to cure both sickle cell disease... see more