January 2018

In Memoriam: Bonnie Mathieson, Ph.D.


United States


General; Policy & Advocacy

In her memoir, Elizabeth Glaser wrote, “If we are not afraid to touch each other’s lives, hope will be our strength and love our prize.”

These words resonate with longtime staff and associates at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) as we pause to honor Bonnie Mathieson, Ph.D., an eminent HIV researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 8, 2018. Dr. Mathieson holds a special place in our hearts because of the hope and love that she shared in her pursuit of an HIV vaccine. Dr. Mathieson provided a vital light in the dark early days of the HIV pandemic.

“I met Bonnie when the Pediatric AIDS Foundation was first formed at a scientific meeting that we were sponsoring,” says EGPAF co-founder Susie Zeegen. “She stood out as one of the most caring and dedicated early advocates for children and their families that were affected by HIV/AIDS. We were blessed to have her as a cherished member of the EGPAF family.”

“When I think of Bonnie, I see her big smile and feel her infectious energy and enthusiasm,” adds Susan DeLaurentis, also an EGPAF co-founder. “Her impact on the HIV community will be felt forever. No obstacle was too challenging for her creativity and her brilliance. I feel lucky to have known her and worked with her in the early days of our foundation.”

A research scientist at NIH in the early 1980s, Dr. Mathieson stepped up to lead the quest for an HIV vaccine when it was discovered that AIDS was caused by a retrovirus. For three decades, she tenaciously pursued that goal, advocating for resources and administrative focus to end HIV. Dr. Mathieson led and supported numerous vaccine trials, and she helped to develop a vaccine scholars program to ensure that the important research continue and expand. Dr. Mathieson published more than 125 articles and chapters and received several performance awards at NIH and the 2003 Alumnus Award from Weill-Cornell Medical College.

While pursuing a cure for HIV, Dr. Mathieson simultaneously pushed for pediatric clinical trials for HIV prevention and was instrumental in securing resources to test HIV immune globulin for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). Since 2000, more than 1.6 million babies have been born HIV-free because of PMTCT protocols later developed from that research.

“I first met Bonnie in the early 1990s, when she approached me to work together on active-passive immunization for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission,” says Lynne M. Mofenson. M.D., EGPAF’s senior HIV technical advisor, who was also working at NIH at the time. “This was typical of Bonnie, to feel that collaboration was the best way to achieve results and to not let the fact we were from two different Institutes at NIH defer her from moving forward the important research that needed to be done.

“Bonnie’s knowledge of HIV vaccine research and immunology was remarkable, as was her persistence in making sure that cutting edge science was moved forward,” Mofenson adds. “She was also intent on ensuring the next generation of researchers was nurtured. She was a kind, caring and thoughtful friend, and I will greatly miss her support of me personally and of HIV research in women, children, and adolescents—as well as young researchers.”

To read more about the tremendous impact of Dr. Mathieson’s work, please click here.

Photo Credit: HIV Vaccine Trials Network