Joep Lange: Scientist and researcher in the forefront of the battle against HIV/Aids who was killed on Flight MH17


Joep Lange was one of the many Aids researchers who died in Ukraine on Flight MH17, depriving the world of an invaluable store of expertise on the HIV virus. For decades he combined meticulous research, theoretical insights, international administration and academic work with an astonishing passion and determination to fight the disease.

Lange died with his partner, Jacqueline van Tongeren, as they were flying to Melbourne to attend a session of the International Aids Conference, which he once chaired. He was one of the heads of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, while she was one of the Institute's communications directors. The Institute was one of an array of organisations with which he had been associated since 1980.

Lange was a native of Nieuwenhagen in the Netherlands; after receiving a doctorate in medicine from the University of Amsterdam he specialised in HIV/Aids. Part of his contribution was described by one of his mentors and friends, Dr Michael Merson, who said: "If you go back to the mid-'80s and early '90s, say the first 15 years of the pandemic, what you have now are a group of people in their 50s, 60s or even 70s. These were the people who fought so hard to get anything done – a new disease, you had people dying like crazy – and you built a kind of camaraderie."

He led early tests on the drug Retrovir, which proved to be the first breakthrough in Aids therapy, and went on to publish hundreds of scientific papers, one of which has been cited around 1,000 times and continues to be referred to today, 22 years after its publication. During the intervening years he took part in, and often led, many organisations and initiatives.

He worked on drug development at the World Health Organisation and edited the journal Antiviral Therapy. He was senior scientific adviser to Amsterdam's International Antiviral Therapy Evaluation Centre, helped supervise HIV research in Thailand and founded the non-profit PharmAccess Foundation, which is based in the Netherlands and has offices in Tanzania, Nigeria and other African countries.

The Foundation presses for the supply of vital drugs at affordable prices to deprived countries. One of his sayings was: "If we can get a cold can of Coke to any part of Africa, we can certainly deliver Aids treatment."

In the 1990s he became an advocate of combination therapy – using an array of drugs to treat HIV/Aids. It is this approach that more than any other succeeded in transforming a diagnosis of the disease from a death sentence to a question of management.

He was known for delivering stark warnings on the dangers of neglecting proper drug therapy. "South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland will be potential basket cases if they don't act," he once declared. "In the case of Botswana, if it doesn't act it will cease to exist."

In addition to dedicating so much of his life to his scientific work, he had passions for art, literature – he was a particular fan of the Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago – and conversation.

After the news of his death came through a colleague posted on Twitter of finding Lange, who was described as a doting father, taking part in conference calls on HIV while cooking for his five daughters. The colleague said, "I asked him why he worked so much. He said, 'Do you know how much it costs to buy shoes for five girls?'"

Many tributes were paid from various parts of the world. Richard Boyd, professor of immunology at Monash University in Melbourne, said, "He's one of the icons of the whole area of research. His loss is massive." Meanwhile Jeremy Farrar, Director of the London-based Wellcome Trust health charity, added: "He was a great clinical scientist. He was also a personal friend. He is a great loss to global health research."

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "He was one of the most creative Aids researchers, a humanist and tireless organiser, dedicated to his patients and to defeating Aids in the poorest countries."

Joseph Marie Albert Lange, scientist and researcher: born Nieuwenhagen, Netherlands 25 September 1954; partner to Jacqueline van Tongeren (five daughters); died near Hrabove, Ukraine 17 July 2014.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam