Read Full Story The United States could learn a thing or two from Singapore when it comes to providing quality health care at reasonable cost, according to biologist, entrepreneur, and author William Haseltine.Intrigued by the fact that the Southeast Asian nation spends only 3% of its GDP on health care in contrast to the United States’ nearly 18%—yet has a healthier population—Haseltine, president and founder of the think tank ACCESS Health International, examined Singapore’s approach to health care in his 2013 book, Affordable Excellence: The Singapore Health Story.He thinks that Singapore’s emphasis on “social harmony”—on ensuring that everything in society works well and smoothly—is a key factor in that nation’s health care achievements. “They believe that nobody in their country, even a foreigner, will go without health care,” Haseltine said during a January 15, 2014 talk at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), where he served as a professor from 1976-92. “If they have to put more money into it to help to help the vulnerable population and the very old population, they do it.”Haseltine gave a Centennial Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Book Presentation to a standing-room-only audience in Kresge G-2. HSPH Dean Julio Frenk introduced Haseltine as “a Renaissance person”—an accomplished basic researcher in HIV/AIDS, cancer, and genomics; an innovator who founded several successful biotechnology companies; and a researcher of health systems.
Read Full Story The year was 1988. People were afraid. A total a 106,994 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and 62,101 were dead. Scientists were making progress, but there was no effective treatment. One night the evening news would feature protests by AIDS activists demanding faster drug approval. The next night the news featured parents demanding kids with HIV be barred from public schools.On May 6, 1988, Harvard President Derek Bok announced the establishment of the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) to expand and accelerate AIDS research at Harvard. “The conquest of AIDS will require the commitment of experts concentrated at the School of Public Health, the Medical School and its teaching hospitals as well as from many disciplines throughout the University,” said Bok. “The Institute’s mission is to focus our resources and redouble our efforts.”Bok named Myron “Max” Essex, a virologist at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), to lead the Institute. According to Essex, “HAI was the brainchild of Harvey Fineberg,” who was HSPH Dean at the time.“I wanted Harvard to declare a clear and compelling commitment to cope with the AIDS epidemic,” remembered Fineberg. “To deal with it not just as an intellectual problem, but as a practical and social problem. Max Essex was the obvious choice to lead the enterprise. He had been at the center of research on retroviruses and what later became HIV/AIDS research.”After arriving at Harvard in 1972, Essex quickly made his mark. He showed that feline leukemia was caused by a type of infectious disease — a retrovirus — which could also suppress the animal’s immune system. In the early 1980s, when the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta began investigating deaths in gay men with immunosuppression, Jim Curran, who led the investigation, called Essex for help and sent samples to his lab. Scientists were searching for the cause of what would later be named AIDS.Essex was one of the first researchers to hypothesize that a retrovirus was the cause of AIDS. Later, he and a graduate student, Tun-Hou Lee, identified gp120, the envelope protein of the virus which became the basis for HIV tests. Essex, graduate student Phyllis Kanki, and their colleagues discovered SIV, an AIDS-like virus in monkeys. They also identified HIV-2 in West Africa, a virus similar to but less lethal than the more common HIV-1.“It was a time when discoveries were happening almost monthly — major discoveries,” remember Richard Marlink, a young doctor who joined the Essex team. “Tun-Hou Lee and Phyllis Kanki and others were figuring out where the virus came from and how it worked.”As AIDS took hold in the 1980s, Essex and his team collaborated with other scientists and clinicians in the Boston area, including Martin Hirsch, head of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital; William Haseltine, a molecular biologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute; and Jerome Groopman, an oncologist studying AIDS-associated cancers at the Deaconess Hospital.