In this time of crisis, Del Mar is fortunate to have a number of citizens with extraordinary credentials to advise us. Frank Chisari
and Don Mosier have offered advice to the City Council about public policy decisions regarding the COVID-19
challenge facing our community and their expertise to DMCC and other community organizations as well.
All of us express our profound gratitude to these two exceptional citizens. -Mayor Ellie Haviland
SP Don, please summarize your educational background.
I received my M.D. with Honors and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After I finished medical school, I had two post-doctoral fellowships at the National Institute for Medical Research in London and Harvard Medical School.
SP Describe your research experience before moving to Del Mar.
I was appointed to the U.S. Public Health Service where I performed basic immunology research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD from 1972 until 1978. I then moved to the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia in 1978. While there, we began studies of a mouse retrovirus that caused severe immune suppression, an early model for AIDS in humans.
SP How well do you know Dr. Fauci?
I know Tony well. My laboratory was just down the hall from his at NIH. Tony subsequently became the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984 and he continues in that post today. Frank Chisari went to medical school with Tony, and he is in frequent contact.
SP What brought you to the west coast and Del Mar?
In 1985, I moved to Del Mar to head a department at the Medical Biology Institute in La Jolla. In 1988, we developed a much-improved animal model for AIDS by transplanting human immune cells into mice that lacked their own immune system. This model was used extensively for testing drugs and vaccine approaches to prevent AIDS and continues to be used today.
SP What was the nature of your research at Scripps?
In 1992, I moved to The Scripps Research Institute as Professor of Immunology and Microbial Science. My work focused on how the AIDS virus infects human cells and how that infection might be blocked.
SP When did you retire and are you still affiliated with Scripps?
I retired from laboratory work in 2016, and I am now Emeritus Professor in that department.
SP Can you briefly describe your other professional experience?
I have served on many review and advisory panels during my 50+ years in science. Tony Fauci appointed me to chair the first NIH AIDS Review committee in 1987. I have served on advisory committees for the World Health Organization, ANRS (the French agency for research on AIDS and hepatitis C), the German Cancer Research Center, several NIH AIDS Research Centers including the one at UC San Diego, the UC AIDS Task Force, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, and major pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Burroughs-Wellcome, and Tibotec. I was founder and CEO of a non-profit organization funding pre-clinical studies of agents to prevent AIDS virus transmission until 2017, when larger clinical trials continuing the work were funded by the Wellcome Trust. Our studies on how HIV-1 mutates to change how it infects immune cells were cited by a recent study of how the SARS CoV-2, the viral cause of COVID-19, has increased its ability to bind to its cellular target ACE-2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme-2), a key finding that may explain why it is more infectious than closely-related coronaviruses.
SP Have you recently consulted with Del Mar City Council and other organizations?
Frank Chisari and I testified about the risks of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 epidemic at the Del Mar City Council meeting on Saturday, March 14th. Frank and I are advising Del Mar Community Connections on safe practices as they serve seniors in Del Mar.