Our Legacy

Learn more about our rich history

The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center (ADARC), the world's largest private research center dedicated exclusively to fighting HIV/AIDS, joined Columbia University Irving Medical Center on January 1, 2020. Dr. David Ho remains as the Center’s Director and has been named the Clyde ’56 and Helen Wu Professor of Medicine at Columbia University.

The concept for ADARC originated in 1988 when the Aaron Diamond Foundation was asked to bring a group of funders together to discuss the development of a high level research effort concentrated on the basic science of HIV/AIDS for New York City, an effort made necessary as New York City was an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and needed to assume a greater responsibility for the health of its citizens.

Realizing the urgency of the situation, Irene Diamond, president of the Foundation, decided to establish the Diamond Center as a joint venture of the Foundation and the Department of Health of the City of New York, soon joined by the Public Health Research Institute and New York University School of Medicine. In mid-1989, Dr. David D. Ho, an internationally recognized microbiologist from the University of California, Los Angeles, became the founding Scientific Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Center.

Construction began in July 1990, the first laboratory and office were ready late that fall, and the Center was officially opened and dedicated in April 1991. Quickly reaching its full complement of scientists, the Diamond Center outgrew its space and, in the fall of 1996, expanded to an additional floor. In July 1996, Dr. Ho was appointed to a professorship at The Rockefeller University and was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1996 for the Center's contributions to the understanding of HIV pathogenesis and pioneering the use of triple combination therapy.

ADARC has played an important role in breakthroughs that have helped redefine our understanding of HIV and changed the course of clinical care for AIDS patients. Without the help of Irene Diamond, none of this work would have been possible.

Throughout the years, the scientists at ADARC have made major scientific discoveries that have revolutionized our basic understanding of this horrific disease. Dr. Ho led his team to champion the combination antiretroviral therapy that resulted in unprecedented control of HIV in patients. A near uniformly fatal infection had been transformed into a manageable disease. HIV/AIDS mortality has declined dramatically since 1996. The miracle of combination antiretroviral therapy has now been made a reality to millions across the globe–including the resource challenged nations of sub-Saharan Africa where the disease burden is highest. It is estimated that as of 2018, over 23 million HIV-1 infected individuals were on combination antiretroviral therapy. ADARC has been a major driving force behind this major medical breakthrough.

Other discoveries of note at ADARC include the discovery of CCR5 as the necessary coreceptor for HIV entry, the benefits of early initiation of antiretroviral therapy, the need for resistance testing when initiating antiretroviral therapy, and an enhanced understanding of the effects of high levels of viral replication on the immune system of the infected host.

These advances were all made possible by a multidisciplinary approach–virology, immunology, molecular biology, and clinical and translational medicine.

Dr. Ho and the ADARC faculty continue to work on projects aimed at developing HIV vaccines, as well as antibody-based strategies for treatment and prevention and testing long-acting antiretroviral drugs as pre-exposure prophylaxis to halt or slow the spread of the AIDS epidemic.

ADARC and CUIMC will together combine their scientific strengths to advance the understanding of HIV infection and strive for novel and improved HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention strategies.