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October 24, 1942 |
Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases
Donald Pinkston Francis (born October 24, 1942) is an American epidemiologist who worked on the Ebola outbreak in Africa in the late 1970s, and researched on HIV and AIDS. He retired from the U.S. Public Health Service in 1992, after 21 years of service. According to Francis, the White House (then under the administration of George H.W. Bush) wanted him fired, but in order to avoid controversy he quietly "retired". He currently lives in San Francisco, California.
Francis was born October 24, 1942 in the Bay Area of California and grew up in Marin County. His main interest was skiing, and his mother, father and grandfather were physicians. However, he was a poor student as a child, suffering from dyslexia. Francis has said that he gravitated towards science because he had such difficulty with subjects where fluid reading ability was needed.
Francis completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a member of the California chapter at Delta Upsilon, class of 1966. He received his M.D. from Northwestern University and his Doctor of Science in Virology from Harvard. He did his internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles and his fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard. Before beginning his work on AIDS, Francis was involved in epidemic control around the world. He was instrumental in eradicating smallpox from Sudan, India and Bangladesh. He was also on the front line of the cholera epidemic in Nigeria in the early 1970s, the smallpox epidemic in Yugoslavia in 1972 , and the Ebola epidemic in Sudan in 1976. Francis also did some of the early developmental work on the hepatitis B vaccine, both in the United States and in the People's Republic of China.
Francis began his work on AIDS in 1981. He was one of the first scientists to suggest that AIDS was caused by an infectious agent. As director of the CDC's AIDS Laboratory Activities, he worked closely with the Institut Pasteur, which isolated HIV.
At the time of his retirement from the CDC, he was the centers' AIDS Advisor to the State of California and Special Consultant to Mayor Art Agnos in San Francisco. In the latter capacity he served as the Chair of the Mayor's HIV Task Force.
In 1993, Francis joined Genentech, Inc., of South San Francisco to try to develop a vaccine for HIV. In 1995, Francis and fellow retro-virologist Dr. Robert Nowinski spun off Genentech's HIV vaccine unit after the company had disappointing results, and founded VaxGen, based in Brisbane, California, to continue working on vaccines. After the vaccine failed in clinical trials, Francis left VaxGen in 2004 to co-found Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases , where he serves as Executive Director and principal investigator.
And The Band Played On
In 1993, HBO produced And The Band Played On, an Emmy-winning movie about the AIDS crisis based on the 1987 book of the same name by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts. Actor Matthew Modine plays Francis, a central figure in the movie. In both the book and the film, his antagonist is Dr. Robert Gallo (portrayed in the film by Alan Alda), the discoverer of HTLV (the human T-cell leukemia virus), and co-discoverer of HIV, who cuts off assistance when he hears that Francis has shared some experimental materials with French researchers at the Pasteur Institute.
- Don Francis and the Ebola Virus
- Film Annotations for And the Band Played On
- Dr. Donald P. Francis Talks to Teachers About the Ebola Outbreak
- Movers & Shakers Interview (3 June 2003) - Dr. Donald Francis, President & Co-Founder, VaxGen Inc.
- The VaxGen Experiment, London Sunday Times, 3 October 1999
- Vaccine has no impact; AIDSVAX's failure a blow to treatment
- VaxGen Announces Changes to Management and Board
- [Website] Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases