Cape Town, South Africa | TIME named Glenda Gray to the 2017 TIME 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The full list and related items will appear in the May 1, 2017 issue of TIME, which will be available on newsstands on Friday, April 21, and immediately on time.com/time100. South African born Gray graduated in 1986 as a medical doctor from the University of Witwatersrand and in 1992 qualified as a paediatrician from the College of Medicine South Africa. Internationally acclaimed for her work in HIV research, Gray has broken new boundaries, redefined scientific excellence and pioneered ground breaking medical research that has shaped global communities and saved lives.
“Placing people at the centre of health research is the fuel for ensuring impact”, says Professor Glenda Gray, currently serving her term as President & CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
While at the helm of the country’s medical research council, the custodian for health research in South Africa and globally known for its strategic impetus to respond to South Africa’s burden of disease, Gray also chairs the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases to lead research collaborations on chronic diseases worldwide. Her leadership style has enabled the SAMRC to acquire three consecutive clean audits, redirect resources to invest significantly in research in historically under resourced universities and elevate the research agenda to build the next generation of black medical scientists in the country.
Gray’s story over the years is nothing shy of dedication, commitment and passion to address health issues that have and still affect South Africans. In 1996, together with James McIntyre, she co-founded the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (HPRU) based in Soweto where they developed a world renowned unit focused on HIV prevention and treatment. In 2002, in a country whose government propagated AIDS denialism and denied HIV infected women antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s) to prevent transmission to their babies, Gray and McIntyre were awarded the Nelson Mandela Health & Human Rights Award for their work in response to this challenge.
Globally the medical community took note of their work and in 2003, in recognition for their research and advocacy done to bring lifesaving antiretroviral therapy to mothers and people in need, Gray and McIntyre received the “Heroes in Medicine” award from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC).
“When you give a child an opportunity to grow up, free of ill health, you give them hope to define a destiny of their own”, says Gray recalling how HIV took from South African mothers the joy of seeing their children grow up.
One of the highest orders in South Africa, the Order of Mapungubwe, was bestowed by the President on Gray for her life saving research in mother to child transmission of HIV that changed the lives of mothers and their children and served the interests of South Africans. Since then Gray has been on a trajectory that has led her to become an internationally recognized leader in global health.
In the mid- 2000’s Gray saw that the only path to an AIDS free generation would be in the development of potent biomedical interventions. She thus turned her attention to HIV vaccine research, believing it was critical to ending the HIV epidemic, and focused her research to investigating potential HIV vaccine candidates. As, the Co-Principal Investigator (PI) of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), an international network that conducts over 80% of the clinical trials of candidate HIV vaccines globally, she provides leadership at a Global Level with the HVTN PI, Larry Corey, and Co-PI, Scott Hammer.
Most notably, she spearheaded the clinical development of the South African AIDS Vaccine initiative’s HIV vaccines, the SAAVI DNA/MVA candidates and conducted the first trial using these candidate vaccines in South Africa and the United States. In November 2016, an ambitious programme was announced to evaluate an HIV vaccine regimen in South Africa that, if successful, could be the first HIV vaccine to be licensed globally. Gray and her team, are leading this trial, HVTN 702, the first HIV vaccine efficacy trial in seven years.
The TIME Magazine list, now in its fourteenth year, recognizes the world’s most influential individuals. As TIME Editor-in-Chief Nancy Gibbs has said of the list in the past: “Each year our TIME 100 list lets us step back and measure the forces that move us…. One way or another they each embody a breakthrough: they broke the rules, broke the record, broke the silence, and broke the boundaries to reveal what we're capable of”.
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