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John W. Mellors

UPMC Media Relations

University of Pittsburgh’s John Mellors, M.D., Receives $500,000 Unrestricted Research Award from Bristol-Myers Squibb

PITTSBURGH, April 5, 1999 — John W. Mellors, M.D., has been named the recipient of a $500,000 unrestricted research grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation for his studies on AIDS.

Dr. Mellors is a professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. He directs the HIV/AIDS program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). He is world-renowned for his research on the resistance of HIV virus to current drug therapies and on the importance of viral load as a predictor of clinical outcome for AIDS patients.

The grant was announced by Richard J. Colonno, Ph.D., vice president, Infectious Diseases Drug Discovery, Bristol-Myers Squibb, who said: "John Mellors is an internationally recognized opinion leader and clinical researcher in AIDS and has contributed much to our understanding of how the virus becomes resistant to drug therapies. He was also one of the first to demonstrate the importance of viral load in patient outcomes. We are very proud to support his outstanding work in this critical area of medicine."

"The unrestricted nature of this grant gives us the freedom to put the support where it is most needed," said Dr. Mellors. "We will use this money to address the continuing challenges in treating patients with AIDS. In particular, we are interested in understanding HIV drug resistance and in developing effective ‘salvage’ therapies for those patients who have failed currently available regimens. Unfortunately, such failures are a growing problem."

"This grant comes at a particularly opportune time at the UPMC because we are opening an expanded, state-of-the-art facility to continue our comprehensive patient care," added Dr. Mellors, who receives research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration and industry sources.

Under Dr. Mellors’ guidance, the Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment provides comprehensive HIV care to more than 700 HIV-infected individuals. The Pittsburgh Treatment Evaluation Unit at the UPMC has conducted pivotal trials of new antiretroviral agents, including protease inhibitors, triple-drug combinations and combination protease inhibitors. Dr. Mellors’ research as an investigator on the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (locally referred to as the Pitt Men’s Study) has provided important insight into the relationship between viral load and disease outcome. These findings have broad implications for research and patient management. Currently, Dr. Mellors is the protocol co-chair and virologist on two clinical studies to determine whether salvage antiretroviral therapy is effective in patients who have become resistant to protease inhibitors.

Dr. Mellors’ basic research has focused on the mechanism of HIV resistance to antiretroviral drugs. His work in this area has helped define the genetic and biochemical basis for resistance to drugs that destroy HIV in various ways. These drugs include nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and the pyrophosphate analog, foscarnet. His laboratory has also developed recombinant retroviral systems to detect and quantify drug-resistant HIV strains.

The infectious disease grants program is one of six biomedical research grants programs funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb. The others support research in cancer, cardiovascular/metabolic diseases, neuroscience, nutrition and orthopaedics. More than $80 million has been committed to these programs to date.

Each of the six Bristol-Myers Squibb Unrestricted Biomedical Research Grant Programs also consists of an annual award for distinguished achievement to an individual researcher. As supervisor of an infectious disease research grant, Dr. Mellors is automatically a member of an independent selection committee that selects the winner of the annual $50,000 Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Infectious Disease.

From 1991 to 1995, Ronald B. Herberman, M.D., supervised an unrestricted cancer research grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is a pioneer in the study of natural killer cells and their effect on cancer. In 1993, an independent peer committee of the world’s leading cancer researchers selected Bernard Fisher, M.D., a distinguished service professor at the University of Pittsburgh, as co-recipient of the 16th Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research for his studies of the biology of breast cancer.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, is the leading integrated health care delivery system in western Pennsylvania. It meets comprehensive health care needs through UPMC hospitals—the region’s largest and finest network of tertiary, specialty and community hospitals—and by offering a variety of health-related services and products. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center comprises an internationally renowned academic medical center that provides advanced care for all human illness, no matter how complex. Medically qualified patients have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of the latest treatments.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is a diversified worldwide health and personal care company whose principal businesses are pharmaceuticals, consumer products, nutritionals and medical devices. It is a leading maker of innovative therapies for cardiovascular, metabolic and infectious diseases, central nervous system and dermatological disorders and cancer. The company is a leader in consumer medicines, orthopaedic devices, ostomy care, wound management, nutritional supplements, infant formulas and hair and skin products.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb website is http://www.bms.com.

For additional information about the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, please access http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu/.

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