Timothy Brown, also known as “The Berlin Patient,” is thought to be the only individual cured of HIV.
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Brown was pursuing his studies in Berlin, Germany when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. After controlling the virus for many years with antiretroviral therapy, Brown was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and in 2007 underwent stem cell transplantation after unsuccessful chemotherapy. Of the HLA-matched donors, his Berlin doctors chose an unrelated donor who screened positive for the homozygous CCR5∆32 mutation. Despite enduring complications and undergoing a second transplant from the same donor in 2008, the outcome was ultimately a success. Nearly eight years after his transplant, Brown remains free of both his cancer and readily detectable HIV.
The implications of this extraordinary medical achievement are many. If indeed, Timothy Brown has been functionally cured of his HIV infection, he then has provided us with a blueprint from which to work. In fact, much of our ongoing research endeavors were inspired by the biological mechanisms likely exploited to bring about this breakthrough. By reverse engineering his pathway to cure, we hope to recapitulate his success and develop a feasible therapy approach that would be available to the vast majority of HIV-infected individuals.
Timothy Brown’s life has inspired our efforts to defeatHIV, and we believe his remarkable story is a prelude of success yet to come in the pursuit of an HIV cure.