Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: Was the cure for Aids lost along with Joep Lange and 100 top researchers?

Joep Lange (far right) was with group on the way to an Aids conference

There are fears the cure for Aids could have been lost with 100 of the “best and brightest” scientists and researchers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Joep Lange, a world-renowned researcher and former president of the International Aids Society, was with the group heading to the global Aids 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia.

The exact number of scientists he was travelling with has not been confirmed but delegates in Sydney were told that emails indicted around 100 attendees were on the ill-fated plane.

Nine British passengers, including a student, former BBC journalist and two Newcastle United fans, were among the 298 people killed when the Boeing 777-200 was reportedly shot down as it passed over the war-torn country on Thursday.

Trevor Stratton, a Canadian HIV researcher attending the conference told ABC researchers had been getting close to a vaccine against Aids.

“What if the cure for AIDS was on that plane? Really? We don’t know,” he said.

“There were some really prominent researchers that have been doing this for a very long time and we’re getting close to vaccines and people are talking about cures and the end of AIDS.

“And you can’t help but wonder what kind of expertise was on that plane.”

Professor Richard Boyd, director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, told Guardian Australia there were “some serious HIV leaders” on board.

“This will have ramifications globally because whenever you lose a leader in any field, it has an impact. That knowledge is irreplaceable,” he said.

“We’ve lost global leaders and also some bright young people who were coming through. It’s a gut-wrenching loss. I was involved in the aftermath of 9/11 in New York and it brings back that level of catastrophe.”

Video: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash

Clive Aspin, a HIV researcher in Australia ahead of the Aids conference said there was a “huge feeling of sadness” among delegates, with people crying in corridors.

He added: “These people were the best and the brightest, the ones who had dedicated their whole careers to fighting this terrible virus.”

News of Mr Lange's death sent ripples through the Aids community, who paid tribute to a “giant” in the field who made invaluable advances in affordable treatment for sufferers in Asia and Africa.

Scientists at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia said Mr Lange was travelling with his wife, Jacqueline.

Director of the institute, Professor David Cooper, said his friend had an “absolute commitment” to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa.

He added: “The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve. Our joint work in Bangkok, the HIVNAT centre, will stand as his legacy.”

Professors Cooper had worked with Mr Lange on HIV treatment for decades and concentrated on “resource-poor” areas from the mid-1990s, attempting to prevent the disease taking hold in Asia the way it had in Africa.

READ MORE:
'NINE BRITONS AND 80 CHILDREN' FEARED DEAD IN CRASH
UKRAINE REbELS DENY 'SHOOTING DOWN' JET
UKRAINE TO LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO CRASH

In 1996 they established a research centre in Bangkok called HIV-NAT with a Thai colleague.

According to UNSW, Mr Lange had worked in Aids research and treatment since 1983 and made “ground-breaking” contributions to the development of affordable treatments.

He also played a pioneering role in exploring affordable and simple antiretroviral drug regimens for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

At the time of his death, Professor Lange was Professor of Medicine at the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam and Senior Scientific Advisor to the International Antiviral Therapy Evaluation Centre, Amsterdam.

He was co-director of the HIV Netherlands Australia Research Collaboration (HIV-NAT) and a former president of International AIDS Society.

The group expressed its “sincere sadness” at news of the deaths of colleagues and friends on MH17, confirming they were on route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference starting in Melbourne on Sunday.

“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” a statement said.

“The IAS has also heard reports that among the passengers was a former IAS President Joep Lange and if that is the case then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

In 2001, he founded and chaired the PharmAccess Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in Amsterdam, designed to improve access to therapy in developing countries and was a founding editor of the academic journal, Antiviral Therapy.

Glenn Thomas, a British media relations co-ordinator for the World Health Organisation, was also part of the delegation, according to WHO officials.

The 49-year-old was a former BBC journalist from Blackpool and had recently celebrated his birthday, according to The Times.

Nine Britons, 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 38 Malaysians, 23 US citizens and 80 children were among those on board Boeing 777-200 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Smoke rises up at a crash site near the village of Grabovo Smoke rises up at a crash site near the village of Grabovo

None of the 298 and crew survived the crash, near the town of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, which has seen fierce fighting between separatist militias and government troops.

Both pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government denied shooting the aircraft down after US authorities said intelligence analysis showed it had been hit by a surface-to-air missile.

Read more: HOW DOES THIS COMPARE WITH PREVIOUS PLANE DISASTERS?
OBAMA: THIS IS A 'TERRIBLE TRAGEDY'
LOSS OF THE TWO BOEING 777 PLANES ARE 'UNLIKELY TO BE LINKED'
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor