The Scientist and the Cure
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Giorgi is fighting to find a vaccine against AIDS. But outside of
the lab she is engaged in a struggle on another front -- to save
her own life
the enticing beauty and tranquility of Santa Fe, Janis Giorgi is
worrying over a scientific puzzle.
just don't get it," she says suddenly, shaking her head of short
black curls. "Why does the virus come back to the same level as
11 p.m. on a chill October night and Giorgi, clad in a white silk
dressing gown, her bare feet propped on a table, a glass of Merlot
in one hand, is referring to HIV, the maddeningly clever virus that
causes AIDS. It's a topic that frequently occupies her curious mind.
Even here, in this charming adobe cottage, hundreds of miles from
her 12th-floor lab in the Factor building at UCLA, the scientist
in her can't be still.
of that obsession is understandable. Giorgi has come to this quaint
New Mexico town to speak at the Santa Fe Institute, a prestigious
think-tank that brings together scholars of various disciplines
to work out problems of society and science. Two hours earlier,
the 52-year-old immunologist, wearing a stylish black suit, was
on stage, explaining to an audience her lab's amazing findings concerning
people's resistance to HIV. For 15 years, she has been involved
with the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, or MACS, one of the most
significant long-term investigations of HIV and AIDS, trying to
discern the specific ways in which the immune system protects against
the deadly virus. Among her other achievements, Giorgi was the first
to discover that different people respond differently to HIV.
measure of her quiet confidence that 15 minutes before she was supposed
to leave for her lecture, Giorgi was not going over her notes or getting
dressed. Instead, one of the world's leading immunologists was standing
over a hot, greasy pan, frying up a batch of chicken livers for her
friends. Besides science, Giorgi's other passion is cooking. Not surprisingly,
she's good at it.