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AIDS Expert James E.K. Hildreth Honored By Johns Hopkins Alumni Association - 05/31/2012

AIDS Expert James E.K. Hildreth Honored By Johns Hopkins Alumni Association

Release Date: May 31, 2012
Hildreth

Internationally known AIDS researcher James E.K. Hildreth, M.D., Ph.D., will receive a 2012 Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Knowledge for the World Award, an honor given to alumni who have brought credit to the university and their profession in the international arena through their professional achievements or humanitarian service.

Hildreth, a 1987 graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was recently named dean of the University of California, Davis, College of Biological Sciences. He was previously director of the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research, a National Institutes of Health-funded center at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. Hildreth will receive his award, along with another distinguished recipient, Richard S. Bransford, M.D. (Class of ’67), at the Johns Hopkins Medical & Surgical Association’s next biennial meeting in June 2013.

“James Hildreth is truly making a difference in efforts to eliminate AIDS across the world,” says Edward D. Miller, M.D., dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “His headline-making discoveries and continuing research strongly influence HIV treatment and prevention. His mother once told her son: ‘Your circumstance does not limit your possibilities.’ James has lived by that motto to become one of the most influential HIV doctors in the world. He is a model alumnus.”

Hildreth graduated magna cum laude in chemistry in 1979 from Harvard University and then went to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar (the first African-American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas), graduating with a Ph.D. in immunology in 1982. 

Hildreth returned to the United States to attend the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, obtaining his medical degree in 1987 and joining the faculty. In 2002, he became the first African-American in the 125 year of history of Johns Hopkins to earn full professorship with tenure in the basic sciences. Hildreth served as the first associate dean for graduate studies for several years, where he created a summer research program for underrepresented minorities and was active in recruiting undergraduate students for graduate programs. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Sciences.

At first, Hildreth wanted to become a transplant surgeon, but he turned his attention to HIV after witnessing the disproportional impact of AIDS on “the poor, the disadvantaged and people of color.” His research on HIV and AIDS, which he began in 1986, focuses on blocking HIV infection by learning how it gets into cells. He has published more than 80 scientific articles and hold seven patents based on his research. One protein discovered by Hildreth while at Oxford is the basis for an FDA-approved drug, Raptiva, used to treat psoriasis.

Hildreth is known internationally for his work on the role of lipids in HIV infection. In 2001, while serving as chief of the Division of Research for the NIH’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Hildreth and his research team made an important discovery related to HIV, which causes AIDS.  The team found that cholesterol is active in HIV’s ability to penetrate cells and that removing the fatty material from a cell's membrane can block infection. Hildreth’s team has used this discovery as the basis for developing an odorless, undetectable contraceptive cream that destroys the AIDS virus and holds promise for stopping the transmission of the disease. The vaginal cream, he says, was designed to support women, especially those in Africa who “have no way of protecting themselves from HIV transmission, as well as black women in the United States who are disproportionately affected by the disease.”

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