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Dr. Peggy Johnston Rejoins NIAID to Lead AIDS Vaccine R&D Effort

Date: July 28, 1998
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Author: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Effective Sept. 14, Margaret I. (Peggy) Johnston, Ph.D., will take on two key posts in HIV/AIDS vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director, announced today. Dr. Johnston has been named Assistant Director for HIV/AIDS Vaccines at NIAID, a newly created position. She also will assume the position of Associate Director of the Vaccine and Prevention Research Program in NIAID's Division of AIDS (DAIDS).

We are delighted to have Dr. Johnston rejoin the Institute to fill these critical leadership roles," comments Dr. Fauci. "She is a world-class leader in the field of HIV vaccines who is widely admired and respected for her knowledge, vision, integrity and many skills. "Identifying a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS has been named by President Clinton as a national goal," adds Dr. Fauci, "and research directed toward that goal is the highest priority of the NIAID AIDS program. Dr. Johnston will play a central role in this effort."

As Assistant Director for HIV/AIDS Vaccines, Dr. Johnston will serve as a liaison between the extramural and intramural HIV/AIDS vaccine research communities, and ensure an integrated and well-coordinated program. In this capacity, she will report directly to Dr. Fauci. In her position in DAIDS, Dr. Johnston will have primary responsibility for NIAID's extramural research programs focused on HIV/AIDS vaccines, topical microbicides and other biomedical prevention approaches. She will facilitate the simultaneous development of multiple promising vaccine and prevention strategies; remodel and unify NIAID's clinical vaccine research program; and foster new prevention research activities.

Managing a staff of nearly 30, she will direct the creation and implementation of an overall HIV/AIDS vaccine and prevention research agenda, and specific research initiatives to address its needs. In both positions, Dr. Johnston will work closely with the NIH AIDS Vaccine Research Committee, headed by David I. Baltimore, Ph.D., and the NIH Office of AIDS Research, headed by Neal Nathanson, M.D.

In 1996, Dr. Johnston left her position as deputy director of DAIDS to become scientific director (later vice president for scientific affairs) of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). During her time with IAVI, Dr. Johnston helped it become an internationally renowned advocacy organization for HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development, particularly focusing on the needs and concerns of the developing world. "In charting the organization's scientific course," comments Jack Killen, M.D., director of DAIDS, "Dr. Johnston established an international reputation for the clarity and depth of her understanding of the scientific, sociological, economic and ethical challenges involved in identifying a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

Dr. Johnston's experience in promoting the involvement of the international community, particularly developing countries, in HIV/AIDS vaccine development will be a tremendous benefit to NIAID," comments Dr. Killen, "as the Institute opens its first overseas Phase I AIDS vaccine trial in Uganda this year."

Dr. Johnston received her bachelor's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1972, and her doctorate in biochemistry from Tufts University in 1979. She spent a year as a postdoctoral associate at the Rega Institute for Medical Research in Leuven, Belgium, and then beginning in 1978, spent four years as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health, in what was then known as the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

From 1982-1987, she was an assistant professor of Biochemistry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda. She joined DAIDS (then the AIDS Program) in 1987, assuming positions of progressively greater scope and responsibility over the ensuing nine years: 1987-1988, program officer, Developmental The rapeutics Branch (DTB); 1988-1989, chief, Targeted Drug Discovery Section of the DTB; 1989-1991, chief, DTB; 1991-1993, associate director, Basic Research and Development Program; 1993-1996, deputy director, DAIDS.

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