John L. Sullivan, MD, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine and pioneering HIV researcher, will deliver the commencement address to more than 1,000 graduating students at the Worcester State University 2014 Commencement on Saturday, May 17. Dr. Sullivan (at right) served as vice chancellor of research at UMass Medical School from 1999 until his retirement in 2012.
As an HIV researcher, Sullivan has made seminal contributions to understanding HIV, including how it manifests itself and how it is transmitted. He led the UMMS research team that helped discover the antiretroviral nevirapine, which prevents HIV from replicating. It is widely used today to prevent mother-to-infant transmission of HIV at birth and as part of a three-drug regimen. His lab received its first National Institutes of Health grant to study AIDS in 1983; as a result of this early work, UMMS became part of the international AIDS Clinical Trials Group.
During his leadership as vice provost for research, Sullivan oversaw the extraordinary growth of the research enterprise, with NIH funding going from $60 million in 1999 to $181 million in 2011. Sullivan also spearheaded the successful pursuit of a five-year, $20 million NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award in 2010 that positioned UMMS in an elite consortium of nationally prominent research institutions working to move laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research and train a new generation researchers.