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Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio pledges $50 million for new health justice initiative

Ray Dalio, billionaire and founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio is giving $50 million to NewYork-Presbyterian to fight health inequality at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the disproportionate access to health care in the U.S.

The grant, which is from Dalio Philanthropies, will establish the Dalio Center for Health Justice. The center will “address health disparities and health justice through research, education, advocacy and investment in communities,” a statement said. Other initiatives include tackling unconscious bias in medicine, including when it comes to clinical trials.

“Our goal is to contribute to equal healthcare and equal education because we believe that these are the most fundamental building blocks of equal opportunity and a just society,” Dalio said in a statement.

Covid-19 has hit communities of color the hardest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Hispanic Americans have been hospitalized at roughly 4.7 times the rate of White Americans. The death rate is also higher for minorities, with Black individuals 2.6 times as likely to succumb to the virus as White individuals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed enduring health inequities in a new and alarming way, and the importance of health justice has never been clearer,” said Dr. Julia Iyasere, who will head the Dalio Center for Health Justice. “We are committed to improving the health and well-being of our patients and communities through research, dialogue and education, equity in our clinical operations, investment in our communities and advocacy for national change.”

According to Forbes Bridgewater oversees around $140 billion in assets, while Dalio has a personal net worth of roughly $16.9 billion. Since its founding in 2003, Dalio Philanthropies has given away more than $5 billion.

Dalio is a trustee of NewYork-Presbyterian.

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Timothy Ray Brown, First Patient Cured of H.I.V., Dies at 54

Next, to accommodate the donor’s immune cells, they had to wipe out Mr. Brown’s own immune system by bombarding him with chemotherapy and radiation. Next came the transplant procedure itself. On that same February day, Mr. Brown stopped taking his antiretroviral medication. Three months later, after a grueling recovery in which he almost died, he was H.I.V.-free.

For Mr. Brown, the epiphany came one day in the gym, when he found that he was developing muscles again after years of wasting away. “That was kind of my proof that it was gone,” he said.

Many hurdles remained. A recurrence of leukemia required a second transplant a year later. A brain biopsy left Mr. Brown temporarily paralyzed and nearly blind. He had to be taught how to walk and talk again. His recovery, complicated by injuries from a 2009 mugging in Berlin, left him with a stiff shoulder, limited vision and neurological damage, which prevented him from resuming his work as a translator.

“My life is far from perfect,” he said in 2015, “but it is still my life.”

He was living in Nevada in 2013 when he met Mr. Hoeffgen on the Scruff dating app. They moved to Southern California in 2015. In April, Mr. Brown was admitted to a cancer hospital; his leukemia, unrelated to H.I.V., had returned. Covid-19 restrictions kept the couple together on the medical campus for weeks.

This month, Mr. Hoeffgen told Mark S. King, a blogger and AIDS activist, that Mr. Brown had terminal cancer and had been receiving home hospice care. Mr. Brown was aware that he was dying.

“I have asked him what he wants me to tell people when we make his situation public,” Mr. Hoeffgen said. “He said: ‘Tell people to keep fighting. Fight for a cure for H.I.V. that works for everyone. I never wanted to be the only one.’”

In addition to Mr. Hoeffgen, Mr. Brown is survived by his mother.

One researcher asked whether the couple would consider donating Mr. Brown’s body to science.

“I said, ‘Thank you, but no,’” Mr. Hoeffgen said. “‘I think he’s done enough.’”

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Timothy Ray Brown, 1st person cured of HIV, dies after cancer relapse

Timothy Ray Brown, famous for being the first person to be cured of HIV, has died from cancer at age 54.

Known as the “Berlin patient,” Brown was diagnosed with both HIV and acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, while living in Berlin more than a decade ago, according to Reuters. After his cancer diagnosis in 2006, Brown received radiation therapy and a bone marrow transplant in 2007; the goal of the treatment was to kill the existing cancer in his body and jumpstart production of healthy white blood cells, which are generated in the bone marrow. 

But the physician who led the procedure, Dr. Gero Huetter, aimed to treat both Brown’s leukemia and his HIV using the same operation, according to The Associated Press

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Huetter sought out a bone marrow donor with a rare genetic mutation that provides natural resistance against HIV infection. The virus normally targets white blood cells called CD4-T cells, which it infiltrates through a specific receptor on the cells’ surfaces; people with the genetic mutation have an altered version of this receptor, so the virus can’t slip inside, Live Science previously reported.

After his initial bone marrow transplant in 2007, Brown was cleared of HIV and remained free of the virus until his death, The Associated Press reported. He required a second transplant in 2008 to eliminate his leukemia, but after years in remission, the cancer returned last year and spread to his spine and brain, Reuters reported.

“I’m heartbroken that my hero is now gone. Tim was truly the sweetest person in the world,” Brown’s partner Tim Hoeffgen wrote in a Facebook post, according to Reuters.

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Huetter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the International AIDS Society, told Reuters.

Originally published on Live Science. 

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First Person Known to Be Cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, Dies of Cancer at 54

T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Timothy Ray Brown in 2012

Timothy Ray Brown, the first patient known to have been cured of an HIV infection, has died from cancer.

Brown, 54, died at home in Palm Springs, California, his partner Tim Hoeffgen said, according to the Associated Press. Widely known as “the Berlin patient,” Brown had leukemia and underwent two risky bone marrow transplants in Berlin in 2007 and 2008, which rid him of the cancer and of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The International AIDS Society confirmed the news, stating that Brown’s cancer reoccured, though his HIV remained gone.

“On behalf of all its members and the Governing Council, the IAS sends its condolences to Timothy’s partner, Tim, and his family and friends,” Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the IAS and professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Malaya, said in a statement.

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hütter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”

Hütter, the German hemotologist who treated Brown, said “it’s a very sad situation” that Brown’s cancer resurfaced, according to the AP, adding that “Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances” to cure HIV.

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Manuel Valdes/AP/Shutterstock Timothy Ray Brown in March 2019

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According to the IAS, Brown stopped antiretroviral therapy (ART) shortly after the bone marrow transplant in 2008, but “remained free of any detectable virus.”

“In other words, he was cured,” said IAS. “His experience suggested that HIV might one day be curable. This fueled a range of efforts by researchers and institutions focusing on HIV cure research.”

Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS and director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said Brown was “a champion and advocate for keeping an HIV cure on the political and scientific agenda.”

“It is the hope of the scientific community that one day we can honor his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and cure using gene editing or techniques that boost immune control,” said Lewin in a statement.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Brown revealed that his cancer returned last year and that he was terminally ill, receiving hospice care. “I’m still glad that I had it,” he told the outlet of the transplant. “It opened up doors that weren’t there before”

His partner Hoeffgen added last week: “He’s been like an ambassador of hope.”

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Timothy Ray Brown, 1st Person Cured of HIV, Dies of Cancer | Health News

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Chief Medical Writer

Timothy Ray Brown, who made history as “the Berlin patient,” the first person known to be cured of HIV infection, has died. He was 54.

Brown died Tuesday at his home in Palm Springs, California, according to a social media post by his partner, Tim Hoeffgen. The cause was a return of the cancer that originally prompted the unusual bone marrow and stem cell transplants Brown received in 2007 and 2008, which for years seemed to have eliminated both his leukemia and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances,” to rid a patient of HIV — something that many scientists had doubted could be done, said Dr. Gero Huetter, the Berlin physician who led Brown’s historic treatment.

“It’s a very sad situation” that cancer returned and took his life, because he still seemed free of HIV, said Huetter, who is now medical director of a stem cell company in Dresden, Germany.

The International AIDS Society, which had Brown speak at an AIDS conference after his successful treatment, issued a statement mourning his death and said he and Huetter are owed “a great deal of gratitude” for promoting research on a cure.

Brown was working in Berlin as a translator when he was diagnosed with HIV and then later, leukemia. Transplants are known to be an effective treatment for the blood cancer, but Huetter wanted to try to cure the HIV infection as well by using a donor with a rare gene mutation that gives natural resistance to the AIDS virus.

Brown’s first transplant in 2007 was only partly successful: His HIV seemed to be gone but his leukemia was not. He had a second transplant from the same donor in 2008 and that one seemed to work.

But his cancer returned last year, Brown said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

“I’m still glad that I had it,” he said of his transplant.

“It opened up doors that weren’t there before” and inspired scientists to work harder to find a cure, Brown said.

A second man, Adam Castillejo — called “the London patient” until he revealed his identity earlier this year — also is believed to have been cured by a transplant similar to Brown’s in 2016.

Because such donors are rare and transplants are medically risky, researchers have been testing gene therapy and other ways to try to get a similar effect. At an AIDS conference in July, researchers said they may have achieved a long-term remission in a Brazil man by using a powerful combination of drugs meant to flush dormant HIV from his body.

Mark King, a Baltimore man who writes a blog, said Brown “was just this magnet for people living with HIV, like me,” and embodied the hope for a cure.

“He has said from the beginning, ‘I don’t want to be the only one. They have to keep working on this,’” King said.

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