José Esparza

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José Esparza

José Esparza is a Venezuelan American virologist who lives in the USA. He is known for his efforts to promote the international development and testing of vaccines against HIV/AIDS. During 17 years (till 1985) he pursued an academic career at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC), attaining positions as full professor of virology and chairman of its Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology. From 1986 to 2014 he worked continuously as a viral vaccine expert and senior public health adviser for international health policy agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. José G. Esparza is currently an adjunct professor of medicine, at the Institute of Human Virology (University of Maryland School of Medicine).[1][2][3][4][5] During 2016 he was the President of the Global Virus Network.


Esparza was born in Maracaibo in December 19, 1945. He attended both primary and secondary school at the local Jesuit Colegio Gonzaga, where he graduated in 1962.[6]

Academic career[edit]

Esparza studied medicine at the Universidad del Zulia Medical School (Maracaibo), where he obtained an M.D. in 1968. During his undergraduate teenage years, Esparza teamed up with some of his teachers in viral research studies designed to characterize a large zoonotic outbreak of Venezuelan equine encephalitis affecting people and riding beasts in the nearby Guajira region and its surroundings.[7] He entered IVIC (Caracas) to work at as a graduate student under the guidance of Gernot H. Bergold[8] and then moved to Houston, TX, to pursue graduate studies under the mentorship of virologist Priscilla Shaffer[9] and attend advanced virology courses given by Joseph L. Melnick. Esparza obtained his Ph.D. degree in virology and cell biology from Baylor College of Medicine in 1974. He then returned to Venezuela to work at IVIC where he became chairman and full professor of virology in 1985. As part of a sabbatical leave Esparza was invited by the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Duke University (Durham, N.C.) to work with Wolfgang Joklik.[10] At Durham, Esparza applied modern methods of molecular engineering to study reoviruses. He also applied such tools to the study of rotaviruses, a leading worldwide cause of infantile diarrhea which severely affects and causes many deaths in toddlers living in developing countries like Venezuela. By this stage Esparza had attained hands-on command of many aspects of viral research techniques (i.e., virus-isolation, culture, serotyping, structure, genetic engineering and vaccine development) as well as project-management expertise while heading studies of a variety of human viral pathologies including enchephalitis, herpes, and rotaviruses. In 1986 Esparza was then recruited as a medical officer by the Division of Communicable Diseases of the World Health Organization, a position which implied worldwide supervising responsibilities of research projects involving various vector-borne viral diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever. In 1988 Esparza joined the recently created WHO Global Programme on AIDS and in 1996 he was required to head the Vaccine Development Unit sponsored jointly by WHO-UNAIDS, a task he undertook until 2004. He then joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(Seattle) from 2004 to 2014, first as senior adviser on HIV Vaccines, and from 2011 as senior adviser on global health and vaccines. He then moved to Washington(DC), occupying a position as adjunct professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he continues writing about conceptual aspects of HIV-vaccine development and participating in the monitoring of some of the ongoing clinical trials for HIV-vaccine.[11][12]


  • Herpes Virus Type 2 : genetic aspects. This was the subject of Esparza's Ph.D. dissertation (with honors) working under Priscilla Schaffer. Such work served as a basis for several publications focusing on mutations affecting the temperature sensitivity of the virus.[13][14][15]
  • Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Around the end of 1970s Esparza became involved in studies of various aspects of this zoonotic disease using both mosquito-cell cultures of the virus as well as an in-vivo experimental rat-model of the disease.[16][17][18][19][20]
  • Reovirus. This research -performed at Duke University- led to the cloning of the genes of the Dearning strain of reovirus serotype 3, and the subsequent sequencing and characterization of cloned S2 gene.[21]
  • Rotavirus. Esparza-Bracho researched on this area extensively, including aspects such as:
    • Electron microscopic studies on multiplication of human rotavirus.[22]
    • Polypeptide composition and topography of bovine rotavirus.[23]
    • Molecular cloning of a human rotavirus genome.[24]
    • Antigenic variation of Latinamerican rotavirus.[25]
    • Structural studies of the rotavirus inner capsid.[26]
    • Gene sequence of some rotavirus proteins.[27]

HIV vaccine development[edit]

Consistent with his advisory role at international agencies involved in HIV-vaccine development, Esparza´s efforts in this field have emphasized the following aspects:

  • Characterization of HIV strains present in different countries to guide vaccine development.[28][29]
  • Strengthening vaccine-trial action in various developing countries including Brazil, Rwanda, Thailand and Uganda.[30][31][32]
  • Contributing to the development of ethical guidelines of conduct for HIV-vaccine trials.[33][34]
  • Leadership to ensure that future HIV vaccines are available to all populations in need, and not only to those living in the economically developed world.[35][36]
  • Spearheading the establishment of a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise as an alliance of independent organizations around the world devoted to accelerating the development of preventive HIV vaccine and related activities.[37][38]

Honors & distinctions[edit]

  • 2013: Distinguished Alumnus Award from Baylor College of Medicine[39]
  • 2013: Lifetime Achievement Award (Public Service), Institute of Human Virology, Univ. Maryland.[40]
  • 2013: Ivanovsky Medal of Virology, awarded by the Russian AIDS Society, Moscow, Russia.
  • 2012: Congressional Medal of Merit, House of Representatives, US Congress, Washington.[41]
  • 2011: Plaque from Mahidol University, presented by HRH Princess Sirindhorn, Bangkok, Thailand.[42]
  • 2005: "Hope is a Vaccine" award, GAIA Foundation, Providence, RI.[43]
  • 1999: Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidad del Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela.[44]
  • 1998: Elected Member, Venezuelan Academy of Medicine, Caracas.[45]
  • 1982: Order "Andres Bello", Ministry of Education, Venezuela.[46]


  1. ^ Esparza, José. "Biografia elaborada por: Oswaldo Carmona y Elsa La Corte". Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  2. ^ "Curriculum Jose Esparza". Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  3. ^ "IVIC Microbiología y Biología Celular". Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  4. ^ "José Esparza at-a-glance". Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  5. ^ "An Interview with José Esparza". Retrieved July 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "Jose Esparza".
  7. ^ "Venezuelan equine encephalitis outbreak".
  8. ^ "In Memorian Gernot H. Bergold (1911-2003)". Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  9. ^ Schaffer, Priscilla. "Professor". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Joklik, Wolfgang. "Professor".[not in citation given]
  11. ^ Esparza, J (Aug 2, 2013). "A brief history of the global effort to develop a preventive HIV vaccine". Vaccine. 31 (35): 3502–18. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.05.018. PMID 23707164.
  12. ^ Esparza, J (Sep 21, 2013). "Has horsepox become extinct?". The Veterinary Record. 173 (11): 272–3. doi:10.1136/vr.f5587. PMID 24057497.
  13. ^ Esparza, J; Purifoy, DJ; Schaffer, PA; Benyesh-Melnick, M (Feb 1974). "Isolation, complementation and preliminary phenotypic characterization of temperature-sensitive mutants of herpes simplex virus type 2". Virology. 57 (2): 554–65. doi:10.1016/0042-6822(74)90194-9. PMID 4361460.
  14. ^ Drake, S; Schaffer, PA; Esparza, J; Mayor, HD (Jul 1974). "Complementation of adeno-associated satellite viral antigens and infectious DNA by temperature-sensitive mutants of herpes simplex virus". Virology. 60 (1): 230–6. doi:10.1016/0042-6822(74)90380-8. PMID 4366931.
  15. ^ Esparza, J; Benyesh-Melnick, B; Schaffer, PA (Apr 1976). "Intertypic complementation and recombination between temperature-sensitive mutants of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2". Virology. 70 (2): 372–84. doi:10.1016/0042-6822(76)90279-8. PMID 178095.
  16. ^ Esparza, J; Pina, CI; Novo, E (Jul 1976). "Photoinactivation of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus mediated by tetracyclines". Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 10 (1): 176–8. doi:10.1128/aac.10.1.176. PMC 429709. PMID 984750.
  17. ^ Esparza, J; Sánchez, A (1975). "Multiplication of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (Mucambo) virus in cultured mosquito cells". Archives of Virology. 49 (2–3): 273–80. doi:10.1007/bf01317545. PMID 813617.
  18. ^ Carreño, G; Esparza, J (1977). "Induction of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (Mucambo) virus by iododeoxyuridine in chronically infected 'cured' cultured mosquito cells". Intervirology. 8 (4): 193–203. doi:10.1159/000148895. PMID 873741.
  19. ^ García-Tamayo, J; Carreño, G; Esparza, J (Jun 1979). "Central nervous system alterations as sequelae of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus infection in the rat". The Journal of Pathology. 128 (2): 87–91. doi:10.1002/path.1711280206. PMID 469656.
  20. ^ García-Tamayo, J; Esparza, J; Martínez, AJ (May 1981). "Placental and fetal alterations due to Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus in rats". Infection and Immunity. 32 (2): 813–21. PMC 351517. PMID 7251148.
  21. ^ Cashdollar, LW; Esparza, J; Hudson, GR; Chmelo, R; Lee, PW; Joklik, WK (Dec 1982). "Cloning the double-stranded RNA genes of reovirus: sequence of the cloned S2 gene". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 79 (24): 7644–8. Bibcode:1982PNAS...79.7644C. doi:10.1073/pnas.79.24.7644. PMC 347404. PMID 6961439.
  22. ^ Esparza, J; Gorziglia, M; Gil, F; Römer, H (Apr 1980). "Multiplication of human rotavirus in cultured cells: an electron microscopic study". The Journal of General Virology. 47 (2): 461–72. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-47-2-461. PMID 6245181.
  23. ^ Novo, E; Esparza, J (Oct 1981). "Composition and topography of structural polypeptides of bovine rotavirus". The Journal of General Virology. 56 (Pt 2): 325–35. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-56-2-325. PMID 6273501.
  24. ^ Gorziglia, M; Cashdollar, LW; Hudson, GR; Esparza, J (Dec 1983). "Molecular cloning of a human rotavirus genome". The Journal of General Virology. 64 (12): 2585–95. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-64-12-2585. PMID 6319550.
  25. ^ Puerto Manzano, F; Avendano, L; Esparza, J; Caul, EO (Dec 1984). "Antigenic variation in Latin American human pararotaviruses (a typical rotaviruses)". Journal of Clinical Pathology. 37 (12): 1416–7. doi:10.1136/jcp.37.12.1416-b. PMC 499051. PMID 6096406.
  26. ^ Ludert, JE; Gil, F; Liprandi, F; Esparza, J (Aug 1986). "The structure of the rotavirus inner capsid studied by electron microscopy of chemically disrupted particles". The Journal of General Virology. 67 (8): 1721–5. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-67-8-1721. PMID 3016160.
  27. ^ Gorziglia, M; Aguirre, Y; Hoshino, Y; Esparza, J; Blumentals, I; Askaa, J; Thompson, M; Glass, RI; Kapikian, AZ; Chanock, RM (Nov 1986). "VP7 serotype-specific glycoprotein of OSU porcine rotavirus: coding assignment and gene sequence". The Journal of General Virology. 67 (11): 2445–54. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-67-11-2445. PMID 3023532.
  28. ^ Osmanov, S; Pattou, C; Walker, N; Schwardländer, B; Esparza, J; WHO-UNAIDS Network for HIV Isolation and, Characterization (Feb 1, 2002). "Estimated global distribution and regional spread of HIV-1 genetic subtypes in the year 2000". Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 29 (2): 184–90. doi:10.1097/00042560-200202010-00013. PMID 11832690.
  29. ^ Kitayaporn, D; Vanichseni, S; Mastro, TD; Raktham, S; Vaniyapongs, T; Des Jarlais, DC; Wasi, C; Young, NL; Sujarita, S; Heyward, WL; Esparza, J (Nov 1, 1998). "Infection with HIV-1 subtypes B and E in injecting drug users screened for enrollment into a prospective cohort in Bangkok, Thailand". Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology. 19 (3): 289–95. doi:10.1097/00042560-199811010-00012. PMID 9803972.
  30. ^ Osmanov, S; Pattou, C; Walker, N; Schwardländer, B; Esparza, J; WHO-UNAIDS Network for HIV Isolation and, Characterization (Feb 1, 2002). "Estimated global distribution and regional spread of HIV-1 genetic subtypes in the year 2000". Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 29 (2): 184–90. doi:10.1097/00042560-200202010-00013. PMID 11832690.
  31. ^ Esparza, J; Bhamarapravati, N (Jun 10, 2000). "Accelerating the development and future availability of HIV-1 vaccines: why, when, where, and how?". Lancet. 355 (9220): 2061–6. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02360-6. PMID 10885368.
  32. ^ Kalish, ML; Baldwin, A; Raktham, S; Wasi, C; Luo, CC; Schochetman, G; Mastro, TD; Young, N; Vanichseni, S; Rübsamen-Waigmann, H; von Briesen, Hagen; Mullins, James I; Delwart, Eric; Herring, Belinda; Esparza, José; Heyward, William L.; Osmanov, Saladin (Aug 1995). "The evolving molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 envelope subtypes in injecting drug users in Bangkok, Thailand: implications for HIV vaccine trials". AIDS. 9 (8): 851–7. doi:10.1097/00002030-199508000-00004. PMID 7576318.
  33. ^ Guenter, D; Esparza, J; Macklin, R (Feb 2000). "Ethical considerations in international HIV vaccine trials: summary of a consultative process conducted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)". Journal of Medical Ethics. 26 (1): 37–43. doi:10.1136/jme.26.1.37. PMC 1733173. PMID 10701170.
  34. ^ Esparza, J; Osmanov, S; Kallings, LO; Wigzell, H (1991). "Planning for HIV vaccine trials: the World Health Organization perspective". AIDS. 5 Suppl 2: S159–63. doi:10.1097/00002030-199101001-00022. PMID 1845046.
  35. ^ Esparza, J; Bhamarapravati, N (Jun 10, 2000). "Accelerating the development and future availability of HIV-1 vaccines: why, when, where, and how?". Lancet. 355 (9220): 2061–6. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02360-6. PMID 10885368.
  36. ^ Esparza, José (2001). "An HIV vaccine: how and when?" (PDF). Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 79 (12): 1133–1137. doi:10.1590/S0042-96862001001200009 (inactive 2018-09-11). PMC 2566714. PMID 11799445. Retrieved July 7, 2014.
  37. ^ "Jose Esparza". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2014.
  38. ^ "Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise". Retrieved July 7, 2014.
  39. ^ "Distinguished Alumni". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  40. ^ "Jose G. Esparza Bracho M.D., Ph.D". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  41. ^ "Jose Esparza Receives Congressional Medal of Merit". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  42. ^ "AIDS Vaccine 2011". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  43. ^ "GAIA World AIDS Day Event - Hope is a Vaccine Award". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  44. ^ "José Esparza". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  45. ^ "Miembros Correspondientes Extranjeros". Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.
  46. ^ "Gaceta Oficial número 33041" (PDF). Retrieved Jan 14, 2016.[permanent dead link]