This morning at 9:30, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, along with GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty, announced the collaboration of their respective institutions with a shared goal in mind: finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Just 24 hours after leading the commencement ceremony for 6,053 UNC Chapel Hill students, Folt introduced the new company to UNC’s campus, Qura Therapeutics. Folt assured listeners that everyone involved, scientists and investors alike, will be 100% committed to the project. Folt also stressed the significance of their goal as cure science (as opposed to treatment therapies). Although the HIV/AIDS cure efforts at Qura Therapeutics are projected to last for at least a decade, Folt discussed the sense of urgency that everyone involved in the project feels on a daily basis.
GSK will be 300 years old this year, an age even greater than UNC Chapel Hill, the nation’s oldest public university. The UNC/GSK collaboration will be a 50/50 partnership, a surprising move for GSK, which already brings in millions of dollars as the second largest producer of drugs for treating HIV. In addition to words from Chancellor Folt, there were also speeches from GSK CEO Andrew Witty, NC Governor Pat McCrory, and major scientific contributors: Dr. David Margolis from the UNC School of Medicine and Dr. Zhi Hung from GSK.
Stressing the significance in working together was a common theme throughout the morning announcement. Governor McCrory also mentioned the opportunity to simultaneously “save lives and create jobs.” McCrory highly praised UNC as the top university in the state and Chapel Hill as the “capital of the research area” in North Carolina. He brought to light the significance of the UNC/GSK partnership as bringing deserved attention to the research projects conducted in North Carolina at our prestigious universities – a force to be reckoned with on the same level as in Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York. However, McCrory also reminded the audience and those watching on YouTube via a live feed that the most important priority was saving lives through curing HIV/AIDS.
The collaborative research and development model to be implemented by the fusion of efforts between UNC and GSK is a monumental move in the search for a cure to HIV/AIDS.
However, questions that remain are as follows:
How long until scientists find and produce a cure?
Will the cure be affordable and accessible to the lower classes in our nation and abroad?
There is a long road ahead. In the words of UNC professor Dr. David Margolis, “it’s time to get to work.”