著 名 艾 滋 病 研 究 专 家 何 大 一 在 新 加 坡 发 表 演 讲

何 大 一 教 授 演 讲 英 文 原 文:
Reflection on the AIDS Epidemic and the Role of Science in our Society
著 名 艾 滋 病 研 究 专 家 何 大 一 教 授 (Prof. David D. Ho) 应 陈 嘉 庚 基 金 会 之 邀, 于 (2001 年) 5 月 22 日 晚 在 新 加 坡 华 侨 中 学 礼 堂 举 行 了 一 场 公 开 演 讲。

演 讲 的 题 目 是 "对 艾 滋 病 流 行 的 反 思 与 科 学 在 社 会 中 的 作 用" (Reflection on the AIDS Epidemic and the Role of Science in our Society)。 主 要 内 容 包 括: 艾 滋 病 的 起 源 及 其 在 全 球 的 发 病 情 况; 艾 滋 病 病 毒 侵 入 人 体 的 过 程 及 人 体 对 其 产 生 的 免 疫 反 应; 药 物 治 疗 艾 滋 病 的 机 理 及 其 研 究 方 向 等。

何 教 授 在 听 众 提 问 时 还 就 美 籍 华 人 科 学 家 在 美 国 受 到 歧 视 等 敏 感 问 题, 以 及 作 为 华 裔 科 学 家 如 何 处 理 这 类 问 题, 发 表 了 自 己 看 法。 他 认 为, 科 学 家 无 论 在 什 么 地 方, 如 果 能 够 作 出 成 就, 还 是 会 得 到 社 会 承 认 的。

何 大 一 教 授 目 前 是 美 国 纽 约 市 艾 伦 戴 蒙 德 爱 滋 病 毒 研 究 中 心 (the Aaron Diamonds AIDS Research Centre) 主 任, 并 在 这 个 世 界 最 大 的 私 营 爱 滋 病 研 究 机 构 任 职 最 高 执 行 员。 他 同 时 也 是 美 国 洛 克 费 勒 大 学 教 授。 他 目 前 的 主 要 目 标 是 研 究 艾 滋 病 疫 苗。

以 下 是 何 大 一 教 授 演 讲 的 英 文 原 文:

 

Reflection on the AIDS Epidemic and the Role of Science in our Society

By David D. Ho
22 May, 2001, Singapore

I am here today, because I have been given a great deal of praise and recognition for recent advances made in AIDS research. Achievements in research seldom belong to a single individual. Science is a richly collaborative endeavor, and my personal recognition is merely symbolic for the many important discoveries and contributions made by a cadre of talented scientists in the field. As Sir Isaac Newton aptly put it, "If I had seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulder of giants."

The recent media attention focused on AIDS research has provided an unique opportunity to educate the public at large about a plague of staggering dimensions, and to advocate to our leaders a proper course of action. It is also gratifying to see that the media is willing, on occasions, to prominently feature scientists for accomplishments that move our society forward. However, on a personal note, I find the media spotlight is hot enough to bake, and as Albert Einstein had cautioned, "the only way to avoid the corruption of praise is to keep on working."

I feel extremely privileged to work on AIDS. As a young physician in Los Angeles in 1981, I was fortunate enough to witness the beginning of the visible part of the AIDS epidemic. Over the course of a year, young men, one after another, presented to the hospital with a multitude of complicated infections, leading to death within days to weeks. It was evident that their immune system was damaged. But, by what? Their medical histories strongly suggested the possibility of a sexually transmitted agent that caused the destruction of their immune defenses. And yet, any description of a similar syndrome was nowhere to be found in the medical literature. The disease was obviously new! In this manner, AIDS appeared insidiously and mystified doctors and scientists alike. No one could have predicted that 20 years later, we would face a global epidemic of HIV infection that is arguably the plague of the millennium. Today, HIV continues to spread at an alarming rate of 16,000 new cases per day, and several hundred million infections are expected in the coming decade. For a biomedical scientist, what could represent a greater opportunity than to conduct research on a lethal microbe that threatens the health of the entire world? Dear youths of Singapore, as you move on in life, be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that are bubbled up by serendipity. Then have courage and conviction in pursuing your goals and ideals.

To me the pursuit of science is a noble profession, one filled with excitement. Nothing is more thrilling than the process of scientific discovery. When the wonder of nature is revealed, one is left breathless and awe-struck. Imagine the joy and intellectual satisfaction when the constant expansion of our vast universe was discovered, when the complex nature of the chemical bond was understood, or when the double helical structure of DNA was solved. Imagine, as well, the fruits of science: the sense of accomplishment in those engineers when an electrical current was transformed into light, when sound waves were transmitted across long distances in a wire, or when a cushion of air was harvested to send man soaring into the sky. Allow me a more modest but personal anecdote. Beginning in 1991, my colleagues and I had the privilege of working with structural biologists and medicinal chemists to test small chemicals that might attack the HIV protease, an enzyme essential for the production of infectious progeny virus. So overwhelming was the excitement that overtook us when substances were found to potently inhibit the protease enzyme, thereby blocking viral replication in the test tube. Three years later, we again had the opportunity of being the first to administer one of these chemicals to infected patients. Unmatched were the joy and amazement as we watched the level of HIV fall, ever so dramatically. At first, little did we know that we were sitting on top of a fundamental discovery in AIDS research. But, shortly thereafter, by simply asking why does the virus fall and why does it fall in that manner, it quickly dawned on us that HIV must be turning over rapidly, in a dynamic equilibrium with the host. Using results from our patients and working together with mathematicians, we proved that HIV replication in a person was rapid and remorseless. In the course of only a few weeks, the old paradigm that HIV was largely a latent virus was completely shattered. So incredible was the ensuing intellectual satisfaction that I now fully appreciate the meaning of a line in the book, The Ascent of Man. It reads, "when the answers are simple, then you hear God thinking."

Despite breakneck speed of scientific discoveries in the field, AIDS patients already faced two decades of horror and disappointment. But, because of science, there is now hope. In the past four years, with new knowledge and new therapies, it has become possible to control HIV so effectively that the virus is no longer detectable in the infected person. This dramatic attack on the virus is associated with a substantial clinical benefit to the patient. For the first time in this dreadful epidemic, the tide has begun to turn against the virus. Although a cure is still not in hand, the worst fear-the one that seeded a decade with despair, the foreboding sense that the AIDS virus might be invincible-has finally been subdued. After years of cursing the darkness of AIDS, a candle of hope has been lit by science.

AIDS, however, is far from over. Worldwide, most infected persons cannot access the promising new therapies, and much remains to be done in controlling the spread of this epidemic. It is my deepest hope that the recent scientific advances will inspire governments, academia, and the private sector to remain vigilant and to re-double our efforts to bring an end to this tragedy. Frighteningly, an uncontrolled HIV epidemic in Asia could offset the socioeconomic gains made over the past few decades, as has already happened in Africa. The health of this region, and that of the world, must remain our highest priority. I implore our great leaders to take stock of the situation and to exert leadership with force and conviction.

Recently, my thoughts have taken me on a number of self-reflective journeys. Let me humbly share a few with the youngsters in the audience. In our experiments attempting to eradicate HIV from an infected person, I have learned that success in research, as is the case in most endeavors, requires bold decision making and a willingness to take informed risks. "An excessive zeal to avoid all risks is, in the end, an acceptance of mediocrity and an abdication of leadership." You must take on the toughest challenge but view it as the greatest opportunity, for every noble work is at first seemingly impossible. Heed the words of an American President, Theodore Roosevelt, before the turn of the last century, "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

More and more, I have also reflected on the role of science in our society. I am disturbed by the public's increasing indifference to what we do as scientists. As children, we all began with a real zest for science. We were intellectually curious, and provocative and insightful questions blurted out constantly. However, by early adulthood, this proclivity to science and the joy of discovery have somehow dissipated in most, only to be replaced by science phobia. Consequently, it is not surprising that our society has often stereotyped, unflatteringly, those scientists and engineers who carry out incomprehensible lines of work. Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright Brothers would be today's nerds, even though the products of their ingenuity have made our world better. I am particularly saddened by the fact that many of my personal heroes in science-such as Feymann, Yang and Lee-are virtual unknowns to a typical citizen, while certain dubious characters are universally recognized and often glorified by our society. Why have so many entertainers and sports stars become household names? But how many people know to credit Alan Turing and John von Neumann for inventing the computer, and Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet? Such examples make it abundantly clear that our value system requires serious refocusing.

I am equally troubled by the society's lack of commitment to research in basic science. A former world leader said in 1980, "why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" This simple but na飗e question speaks volumes of the lack of appreciation of the richness that uninhibited fundamental research has brought us. Carl Sagan said it best when he wrote, "Maxwell wasn't thinking of radio, radar, and television when he first scratched out the fundamental equations of electromagnetism; Newton wasn't dreaming of space flight or communications satellites when he first understood the motion of the Moon; Fleming wasn't planning on saving the lives of millions with antibiotics when he noticed a circle free of bacteria around a growth of mold; Watson and Crick weren't imagining the cure of genetic diseases when they puzzled over the X-ray diffractometry of DNA." "These discoveries and a multitude of others that grace and characterize our time ---- were made ultimately by scientists given the opportunity to explore what in their opinion were basic questions in nature. ---- Cutting off fundamental, curiosity-driven science is like eating the seed corn." George Washington said in 1790, "there is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science ----. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness."

Dear youths, always maintain, unwaveringly, a deep commitment to excellence. As you enter your chosen field, stay at the forefront and never permit the excellence of your work to be compromised. Believe in what you are doing. Have faith, which is a quality you cannot dispense with. Stay young at heart. But, should you need to grow, do not suppress your individuality and insist on conformity. Continue to let imagination and creativity percolate throughout your lives, for every great advance has issued from a new audacity of imagination.

I have also reflected on the contribution of my heritage to my career. Were it not for the profound Chinese respect for intellectual achievements and scholarly endeavors, a scientist I might not be today. Moreover, values of drive and dedication, imprinted during early childhood in Taiwan, have continued to serve me well. In any culture, there is simply no substitute for hard work. I have been in America for so long that I often forget that I am an immigrant. From time to time, I can still sense the desire that burns in the belly of a new immigrant, the desire to carve out a place in the New World. To this day, I maintain an underdog mentality that motivates me to a higher level of work ethic. May that desire burns within you.

Let me close with one additional set of remarks directed to the students. There is no doubt that your world is becoming smaller, due to the technological advances made by the giants who have come before you. You are now properly poised to benefit from a fusion of the best of the eastern tradition with the best of other cultures. By adopting the finest of what the whole world has to offer, you can forge forward to assume leadership positions not only in science and technology, but also in law, business, arts, and, yes, even politics and entertainment. I have faith that any one of you can cast a giant shadow on our planet. As Margaret Mead so nicely stated, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

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