Dr. Mark Wainberg
Dr. Mark Wainberg, a microbiologist who identified a drug that later became critical to treating people infected with H.I.V., and who later became a leading advocate for giving millions of people with H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa greater access to antiretroviral drugs, died on Tuesday after struggling in the waters off Bal Harbour, Fla. He was 71.
His son, Zev, said that he and Dr. Wainberg had been swimming in rough surf when Dr. Wainberg appeared to be drowning. His son pulled him to shore and performed CPR before paramedics arrived. He was taken to Aventura Hospital in nearby Aventura, Fla., where he was declared dead, according to the Bal Harbour police.
The AIDS pandemic was spreading quickly in the 1980s when Dr. Wainberg began to study H.I.V. He spent time working with Dr. Robert Gallo, the co-discoverer of H.I.V., who provided Dr. Wainberg with the cells and antibodies to grow the virus in his laboratory at McGill.
Then, in 1989, after studying the properties of a new antiviral drug called 3TC, or Lamivudine, Dr. Wainberg found that it was effective against H.I.V. It soon became an important part of the so-called AIDS cocktail of drugs that is still used to treat infected patients.
But as he studied how H.I.V. mutates to resist the various drugs used to treat it, Dr. Wainberg made finding a cure his goal.
“It’s no longer enough to simply have said, ‘O.K., we’ve done a great job and we’ve transformed H.I.V. from a lethal sentence that used to kill everybody into a chronic, manageable disease, but we want to get to zero’ ” he told CTN, a Canadian H.I.V. research network in 2014.
Mark Arnold Wainberg was born in Montreal on April 21, 1945. His father, Abe, worked for a glassware company and his mother, Fay, worked in insurance. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from McGill and earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Columbia University.
He started his career at McGill as a staff investigator in 1974. At his death, he was the director of McGill’s AIDS Centre and the head of AIDS Research at Jewish General Hospital’s Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research.