Hana Dvořáková

International Jury

Hana Dvořáková

chemistry

We owe the fact that AIDS is no longer as frightening as it used to be just a few decades ago to the discovery of effective antiretroviral drugs. The Czech chemist Ing. Hana Dvořáková, CSc., who worked on the research team of the world-renowned scientist Antonín Holý from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences, was present at the creation of one of the most effective substances against the HIV virus. According to her, she and her husband decided to use the money earned from the antiviral royalty fees to support young scientists.

Their Foundation Experientia, which was founded seven years ago, has so far provided scholarships to fifteen students of organic, bioorganic and medicinal chemistry for internships at prestigious universities abroad and has awarded three-year grants to two start-ups in the amount of two million Czech crowns. However, as the Czech scientist and altruist points out, this is just the beginning. In January this year, they pledged to invest additional 200 million Czech crowns in their foundation, which will serve to support just starting researchers as well as university and secondary school students, in addition to the already running programs. In the next twenty years, this money will enable about forty chemists to spend a year at universities abroad and help set up of up to twenty research teams in research institutes. Experientia has in this way become the largest Czech foundation focused on supporting science, exclusively.

The group of substances she worked on while on Professor Holý's team became the basis of a new generation of antiviral drugs. The most important substance in this series was, undisputably, Viread, which is still one of the most effective drugs in the fight against AIDS. Patents for acyclic nucleoside phosphonates were bought by a small American company with about fifteen employees, Gilead Sciences, which continues to develop antivirals to this day. At the moment they already have several thousands of employees. Many research teams around the world worked on nucleotide modification at that time. Professor Holý's team succeeded in changing the nucleotides so that phosphorus bound directly to carbon, unlike phosphates in natural nucleotides, which contain oxygen between phosphorus and carbon. This minor modification marked a breakthrough in the treatment of viral diseases.