The Scientist and the Cure
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her absence, Giorgi's close-knit staff carried on. Giorgi likes
to joke that things ran even better because she wasn't around to
interfere. Her colleagues put a different spin on it. "One of Janis's
incredible achievements is based on her interpersonal skills and
team-building capacity," says Anton. "She has always had that as
a strength and has built an incredibly stable team. The persistence
and productivity of the team during the time she was out are a testament
doesn't like to dwell on her illness; she is trying to stay positive.
"I have to believe the tumor is gone," she says. But there is no
denying that cancer has changed her in profound ways: She tires
easily and sleeps more so she can function better when she's awake.
Her health remains uncertain. "Of course, they want me to be cured
and for everything to be perfect," she says of her doctors, a rare
edge of frustration to her soft voice. "If it's not, I worry they
will be disappointed with me."
the same time, she has also stopped putting her personal life on
hold. "When you have cancer, you try to experience every bit of
life that you possibly can and you recognize..." She sighs and looks
down. "You recognize that people can be so incredibly generous.
It allows you to see them at their best."
she is forging ahead with the vaccine trial. Giorgi knows full well
that approaches that work in primates often fail in humans, but
she is convinced that this unexplored route of immunization -- one
that goes directly to the site for HIV infection to induce immunity
-- holds promise. Indeed, many AIDS researchers are beginning to
consider this approach. Says Anton: "We all remember the polio vaccine
as a kid, how the gut was used as a route of immunization. There's
lots of research being done now in putting immunizing sequences
into food or pills, to put into the gut because it's the body's
largest immune organ. It also happens to be one of the major sites
for HIV infection."
days, more than anything, one senses that Janis Giorgi feels hopeful
and embraces a deep reverence for life's possibilities. There is
so much left for her to do and see. "I think what's learned from
AIDS vaccines will be translated to other diseases as well," says
the scientist. "Along with the severity of the epidemic, that's
what justifies the predominance of effort given to an AIDS vaccine,
the belief if we more fully understand the immune responses to this
pathogen, we can apply it to other pathogens.
of us," she says, "are so committed to achieving a vaccine that