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Co-founders of the Institute of Human Virology Named 2012 Entrepreneurs of the Year

Friday, October 26, 2012

William Blattner, MD and Robert Redfield Jr., MD

William Blattner, MD and Robert Redfield Jr., MD, associate directors and co-founders of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) and professors in the Department of Medicine at the University of Maryland (UM) School of Medicine, have been named the University's 2012 Entrepreneurs of the Year.

They were recognized on Oct. 23 for their global impact on treating and preventing HIV/AIDS at the UM BioPark Life Sciences Conference Center.

As a result of their success in building a sustainable business model and infrastructure in nine African and Caribbean nations, nearly 500,000 patients have been treated with antiretroviral medications and close to 3 million people have received prevention interventions and HIV testing.

A foundation of their social entrepreneurship success is a high-impact service delivery model that has trained 35,000 in-country health care professionals who have delivered more than 100 million doses of medication.

This is the seventh year that the University has honored its Entrepreneur of the Year. "In the past, we have given this honor to faculty who have shown entrepreneurship in industry," said Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. "But this year we are expanding the definition of the award to include social entrepreneurship."

Perman explained, "The same kind of entrepreneurship-risk taking, drive, and persistence-applies a social network to create nonprofit [organizations] as it applies to angel investing and venture capital investors."

In uncharted waters, Blattner and colleagues in the IHV established the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN) not-for-profit corporation as the mechanism that allowed $294 million in grant funding to the University in the last nine years.

The impact of the effort is best measured in the clinical care, treatment, and prevention services to 944,004 Nigerians who were counseled and tested for HIV; 896,555 mothers who were screened to prevent infections of their babies; 139,857 patients who received antiretroviral therapy; and 22,639 health care workers who were trained, said, Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, dean of the School of Medicine. "What this program means to me is nothing short of unimaginable," said Reece.

The partnerships developed with the IHVN and multiple Nigerian universities position the University of Maryland, the Institute of Human Virology, and the School of Medicine for sustained benefit to our global research, clinical, and educational mission.

Blattner said, "Establishing IHV in Nigeria has meant impacting millions of Nigerians." He said that when then-President George W. Bush approved the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a $48 billion federal initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world, "No one thought it was possible on such a scale."

From the beginning, said Blattner, the mission's strategy has been excellence in care and treatment, training and research, and "the most important element," he said, "respect for the dignity of the people and provide hope for the people of Nigeria and beyond." He said they started at a personal level at a small clinic in the semi-arid highlands of Jos, Nigeria. "Now there are more than 300 staff members of IHV, Nigeria."

Since 2004, the IHV's Division of Clinical Care and Research, under the leadership of Redfield, has been awarded more than $189 million for the development of a consortium known as AIDSRelief. Redfield has built dedicated teams who are providing emergency response training, building local health care capacity, and strengthening key institutional partners in Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Redfield said the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Africa is going down and life expectancy is increasing. The IHV Clinical Division now has 276 sites in 10 African countries. "In each of these, we have strong, strong programs providing care and treatment."

These teams are committed to making a sustainable impact on current global health priorities, providing care and treatment for more than 500,000 people, making a significant overall contribution to the PEPFAR program. PEPFAR is the largest public health program in global history, now operating with a budget of $48 billion. Based on the success of this business model, Redfield's teams have been awarded 24 additional international grants.

"Drs. Blattner and Redfield have branded the Institute of Human Virology and the University of Maryland in all nine countries," says Joseph O'Neill, MD, MS, MPH, director of the University of Maryland Office of Global Health and former director of the PEPFAR program. "They have built a reputation among the Ministries of Health and local in-country universities in all of these countries, as the expert in global infectious diseases; HIV, TB, and malaria."

Redfield outlined three principles of the clinical side of the IHV's social entrepreneurship. 1. The correct regimen of drugs. 2. Develop a care system based on the Jacques Initiative (an IHV clinic in Baltimore), and 3. Treatment strategy.

He said, "Today there is no reason that someone has to die [of HIV/AIDS], no matter how sick he is."

The Institute of Human Virology was co-founded in 1997 by Redfield, Blattner, and Robert Gallo, MD, the director of IHV and co-discoverer of the HIV virus and developer of the first blood test for AIDS. Gallo introduced Redfield and Blattner by saying, "No one could be more blessed than to have two such colleagues as friends and to have two such friends as colleagues."

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