Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6

Contents

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pp. 7-8

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Foreword

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pp. 9-10

It was in a small town in the Czech Republic that I first met the scientists who moved the fight against viral disease a giant leap forward. As Ambassador of Belgium, I was invited to attend the ceremony at the University of South Bohemia conferring honorary doctorates to the late...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. 11-14

I am immensely grateful to Erik De Clercq, Professor Emeritus at KU Leuven. His gift of friendship made this book possible. As one of the pioneers in antiviral drugs he patiently coached me through the universe of chemists and virologists. I greatly benefited from his knack of teaching...

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Introduction

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pp. 15-20

“Cold War Triangle” is about the human face of science, how scientists from three different cultures collaborated to create the complex drugs that saved millions of lives. Who were the mentors that influenced them and their careers? How did they intersect with one another? What traits...

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I. Leuven: a hotbed for antiviral research

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pp. 21-28

In the early years of World War II, the small university town of Leuven was suffering badly from the Nazi occupation. The Germans had again ransacked its world-famous library, which had been devastated during the First World War. In a drafty old building, a young researcher named...

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II. Behind the Iron Curtain

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pp. 29-38

Throughout the early Fifties, McCarthyism dominated life in America and held all of Europe in its grip. Republican Senator Joe McCarthy had created a poisonous climate of fear and suspicion. His communist witch-hunting pushed the FBI into spying on citizens, thousands were accused...

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III. Strange bedfellows: a Czech chemist and a Flemish virologist

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pp. 39-46

Antonín Holý felt lucky. After his graduation from Charles University and military service, he was able to pursue his passion for chemistry, which he had nurtured since his youth. A book on chemistry for children, which he stumbled upon in his parents’ attic, had ignited his fascination. His...

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IV. The sixties in Leuven and Prague

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pp. 47-54

Vaccines to prevent attacks from viruses remained the prime focus of the Rega Institute throughout the sixties. Piet De Somer, however, wanted to look beyond prevention and search for a treatment. Once a viral disease had developed, there was no medicine available in those days.1 Blocking...

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V. Enzymes: the secret of life as chemistry

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pp. 55-62

It seemed the whole village of Hamme had come to the airport to wave the newly-wedded couple goodbye as they embarked on their trip to San Francisco. Friends and family were very proud of Erik De Clercq, the bright young medical doctor, but also of his lovely bride, Lili, who had...

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VI. From interferon to nucleosides

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pp. 63-72

The dwindling interest in the induction of interferon suited Erik De Clercq very well. De Somer allowed him to broaden his interests and travel. Erik eagerly jumped on the occasion to go to Bulgaria in 1971 to attend an annual conference of the Federation of European Biochemical...

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VII. Breaking away from interferon

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pp. 73-78

Could viruses cause cancer? The theory received a lot of credence in the early seventies and was a forceful driver for research in antiviral therapies and interferon in particular. The new focus on interferon as an antiviral, acting as an anti-cancer agent, was mainly the work of one woman...

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VIII. The first antiviral drugs

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pp. 79-84

Erik De Clercq was introduced to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its Advanced Study Institutes in the most enjoyable way. He was selected to travel to the idyllic Greek island of Corfu together with about a hundred other investigators. The workshop tackled antiviral mechanisms...

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IX. Aids emerges in the shadow of the Cold War

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pp. 85-96

The Fifth International Congress of Virology was an imposing title for a meeting in a small room in the University of Strasbourg. There, Erik De Clercq became acquainted with Professor Hans Rosenthal, a virologist from East Berlin. The professor struck his walking cane against the table...

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X. From passivity to action

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pp. 97-108

On a breezy day in March 1985, while making his rounds of the academic research institutions, Julius Vida, a licensing director from Bristol-Myers, appeared in De Clercq’s office and asked if there is any product he would like to develop together with the American drug maker. He was...

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XI. First attempts to halt the epidemic

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pp. 109-118

De Clercq and Holý’s article about the acyclic nucleoside phosphonates appeared in Nature on October 2, 1986. It was a follow-up to one of their first articles. This time it was even more authoritative: a new class of antiviral compounds was born. Their antiviral activity was captured...

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XII. Finding the best therapy: the one-a-day-pill

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pp. 119-126

The biotech gold rush on Wall Street had been unleashed. Companies like Biogen and Genentech had captured the imagination of investment bankers even before a single product was made. Recombinant DNA technologies required to produce interferon synthetically were adapted for...

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Epilogue. Of scientists and crusaders

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pp. 127-131

Twenty years into the AIDS epidemic, little had been accomplished to thwart the disease in developing countries. With the exception of some minor milestones in the field of bloodscreening and educational efforts, HIV continued to spread like wildfire around the world. The situation was...

Album

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pp. 132-150

Notes

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pp. 151-180

Index

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pp. 181-192