Leading researcher returns to discuss origins of human AIDS and malaria at UAB’s Darwin Day

UAB invites you to Darwin Day: A Celebration of Science, which highlights how AIDS and malaria became prevalent in Africa and created a worldwide epidemic.
Written by: Maegan Royal
Media Contact: Alicia Rohan

Morgan Burke Beatrice photoBeatrice Hahn, M.D.The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology and Center for AIDS Research will honor the 210th birthday of biologist Charles Darwin with Darwin Day: A Celebration of Science. UAB celebrates 50 years of dedication to medicine and research by highlighting the work of former professor and co-director of CFAR, Beatrice Hahn, M.D., with a keynote titled “Out of Africa: Tracing the origins of human AIDS and malaria.”

During her time at UAB, Hahn and her colleagues made several groundbreaking discoveries about HIV-1, its origin and treatment. Her contributions include creating the first molecular clone of the human AIDS virus HIV-1, discovering the origins of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in non-human primates in Africa, characterizing the pathogenicity of the precursor of HIV-1 in wild chimpanzee populations, and developing non-invasive methods to study the evolution and zoonotic potential of microbes’ infecting endangered primate species. More recently, Hahn has deciphered the ape origins of the most deadly and wide-spread forms of human malaria.

Hahn is currently a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. In 2002, she was named one of the Top 50 Women in Science by Discover Magazine, and she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science, in addition to many other advisory groups and boards.

“Having worked with Dr. Hahn for more than three decades, I can attest to her intellect, diligence, persistence and curiosity,” said Michael Saag, M.D., professor of medicine and director of CFAR. “The work we did in the late 1980s describing HIV as a rapidly evolving swarm of viruses, attempting to escape the host’s immune system response is Darwinian evolution in time-lapse photography. I can’t think of a more appropriate individual to honor in the name of Charles Darwin than Dr. Hahn.”

The free event is open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, with poster presentations and a reception at UAB’s Edge of Chaos, 1700 University Blvd. The posters featured this year will display the work of the UAB Department of Biology and the Center for AIDS Research. Hahn’s lecture will begin at 7 p.m. Free parking will be available in the parking deck located at 837 16th St. South, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

In addition to Hahn’s presentation during the Darwin Day celebration, she will also conduct a lecture titled “Coming Full Circle: Exploiting the Ape Precursors of HIV-1 for AIDS Vaccine Design,” on Feb. 7 at 12 p.m. in Bevill Biomedical Research Building, Room 170.

For more information about Darwin Day: A Celebration of Science, contact Morgan Burke at (205) 934-0205 or darwinday@uab.edu.