Joseph "Mike" McCune, a senior investigator at San Francisco's Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, on Wednesday was named a recipient of the first-ever National Institutes of Health's Director's Pioneer Award. McCune will receive $2.5 million over five years for his research into the mechanisms of how HIV causes immunodeficiency. McCune was one of nine U.S. researchers to receive the inaugural NIH awards, created to identify and fund researchers with exceptionally creative abilities to develop far-ranging ideas.
McCune says he hopes his work will allow greater understanding of human immune responses that might prevent the development of AIDS in HIV-positive people, and possibly lead to advances in HIV treatments and vaccines. "I want to know if there are certain types of immune responses that protect against infection and others that might instead slow down the pace of disease," McCune says. "Perhaps more importantly, I want to apply this knowledge to the creation of a vaccine that will prevent people from developing AIDS--and that will also be available for use around the world."
McCune, who joined Gladstone in 1995, has been associated with UCSF since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and continues to treat HIV patients at San Francisco General Hospital. He won the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Scientist Award in 1996, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research in 2000, and a MERIT Award from the NIH in 2001.