Professor Ravi Gupta.
Durban - An incredible opportunity lies in taking the case of remission in the HIV “London patient” and helping others. But scientists can’t do it alone, says virologist Professor Ravi Gupta.

The member of the Africa Health Research Institute faculty in Durban and a professor in the University College London’s division of infection and immunity was speaking in Durban this week at the launch of the Bio Africa Convention at the ICC in August.

Gupta was the lead author of the study that made headlines this year, in which a second HIV person, called the “London patient”, was “cured” or had gone into “remission” after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with the CCR 5 mutation in May 2016. The rare genetic mutation prevents HIV from taking hold.

The study set the medical field abuzz, with the idea that a cure for HIV/Aids could be found soon.

Gupta said: “Scientists cannot do it alone, it will have to be a collaborative initiative. It will be two years in September that the London patient has stopped treatment for HIV, and these results increase the expectation of a cure.”

By combining expertise from various fields, there was hope that a cure could be found, and Africa could play a key role in that, he said.

August’s convention aims to bring together more than 1000 delegates to showcase biotech innovations from Africa which could accelerate advancements in the medical field, further biomedical research and fuel agricultural renewal.

Gupta said young people needed to keep an open mind when it came to choosing careers and skills.

“The traditional disciplines will be outdated or not relevant, so we need an intersection of different skills. Biotechnology is an intersection of a number of different technologies, it fosters imagination to find solutions.”

Convention organisers aim to target the youth, who could be key to imagining new technologies.

“We are investing in science for the sake of our youth and we believe that knowledge is the major source of problem-solving,” said Dr Phil Mjwara, the director-general of the South African Department of Science and Technology. “We are excited to be in this partnership and we will work together to (save) people’s lives.”

“For us to grow and research further, we need technology and innovation. We are not at a stage where we can explain or prove we can find a cure for HIV. In terms of the time frame, we should be realistic; we cannot be sure that in the near future there will be a cure. More research needs to be done.”

Independent On Saturday