David Ho, foreign member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, leads R&D on drugs and antibodies for the novel coronavirus at Columbia University

“This time, we have to look for sustainable solutions for the long term.” - David Ho, world-renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, founding scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at the collaboration agreement between the Foundation and Columbia University.

▲David Ho

Earlier in February 2020, the Jack Ma Foundation announced a donation of RMB 100 million (USD 14.26 million) for supporting R&D on drugs and vaccine for the novel coronavirus. As part of this donation, the Foundation is also providing an award to Columbia University.

According to the Collaboration Agreement, Columbia University will undertake R&D around drugs and antibodies for the novel coronavirus. David Ho - the chief director –will be the head of the project and shall be responsible for providing leadership and guidance, goal setting, research and implementation and result tracking for relevant projects taking place under the cooperation framework. The Jack Ma Foundation will provide financial support of over USD 2.15 million for relevant research.

Under this collaboration, Columbia University has established a research team composed of virologists, molecular biologists, chemists, and other professionals, who will use four different methods to identify antiviral drugs and antibodies to prevent virus replication. This world-class team of scientist and engineers come from Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Many of them are senior members of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center.

▲News on the Columbia University website

David Ho holds numerous honors, such as member of the US National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the United States National Academy of Sciences, and is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He is among the earliest scientists to discover that HIV/AIDS is caused by virus infection. His ‘Cocktail Therapy’ is able to gain unprecedented control over the HIV virus inside the human body. In addition, his team has made many significant breakthroughs in the research of HIV vaccines and drugs.

During the SARS epidemic in 2003, David Ho participated extensively in the response by serving as an expert advisor to Beijing, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As a world-renowned Chinese scientist, he felt a personal sense of responsibility and urgency, and unreservedly decided to pause his work on AIDS to fully devote efforts towards the fight against the SARS.

Soon after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, David Ho publicly commented, “ China’s current advanced level of science and technology cannot be compared to its level during the SARS epidemic 17 years ago. But if there is anything we can do to help, we will do our best.”

Consequently, David Ho alongside many other researchers in Columbia University have been paying high attention to the situation and have already begun conducting scientific research to respond to the outbreak.

In the past 20 years alone, the world has experienced 3 major outbreaks of the coronavirus: SARS, MERS and the current COVID-19. From David Ho’s perspective, humans must look for sustainable solutions for the long term, and identify broad-spectrum drugs or antibodies able to inhibit this type of coronavirus. Even when this novel coronavirus pandemic is controlled, this scientific pursuit can never stop.