London: There are fears the cure for Aids could have been lost with 100 of the “best and brightest” scientists and researchers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Joep Lange, a world-renowned researcher and former president of the International Aids Society, was with the group heading to the global Aids 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia.
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Renowned researcher Joep Lange. File Pic/AFP
The exact number of scientists he was travelling with has not been confirmed but delegates in Sydney were told that e-mails indicated around 100 attendees were on the ill-fated plane.
Trevor Stratton, a Canadian researcher attending the conference said researchers had been getting close to a vaccine against Aids. “What if the cure for AIDS was on that plane? Really? We don’t know,” he said.
“There were some really prominent researchers that have been doing this for a very long time and we’re getting close to vaccines and people are talking about cures and the end of AIDS. And you can’t help but wonder what kind of expertise was on that plane.”
Professor Richard Boyd, director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, told Guardian Australia there were “some serious HIV leaders” on board. “This will have ramifications globally because whenever you lose a leader in any field, it has an impact. That knowledge is irreplaceable,” he said. “We’ve lost global leaders and also some bright young people who were coming through. It’s a gut-wrenching loss.”
Clive Aspin, a HIV researcher in Australia ahead of the AIDS conference said there was a “huge feeling of sadness” among delegates, with people crying in corridors. He added: “These people were the best and the brightest, the ones who had dedicated their whole careers to fighting this terrible virus.”