Myron Elmer "Max" Essex, DVM, PhD, (born August 17, 1939) is the Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences at Harvard University, Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative (HAI), and Chair of the Botswana–Harvard AIDS Institute in Gaborone, Botswana. Essex was one of the first to link animal and human retroviruses to immunosuppressive disease, to suspect that a retrovirus was the cause of AIDS, and to determine that HIV could be transmitted through blood and blood products to hemophiliacs and recipients of blood transfusions. With collaborators, Essex also provided the first evidence that HIV could be transmitted by heterosexual intercourse.
In 1984, Essex identified gp120, the virus surface protein that is used worldwide for blood screening, HIV detection, and epidemiological monitoring. With collaborators, he discovered the first simian immunodeficiency virus, as well as HIV-2. Since 1986, he has developed programs for AIDS collaboration in Senegal, Thailand, Botswana, India, Mexico, and China. In 1996, Essex helped establish the Botswana–Harvard Partnership for HIV Research and Education (now the Botswana–Harvard AIDS Institute). This is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health in Botswana and HAI.
Essex holds nine honorary doctorates and has received numerous awards, including the Lasker Award, the highest medical research award given in the United States, jointly with Robert Gallo and Luc Montagnier in 1986. He has published over 500 papers and 11 books, including two editions of AIDS in Africa (ISBN 0306466996), and his latest, Saturday Is for Funerals (ISBN 0674050770).