These Molecular Inventions Helped Curb A National Health Crisis


This is part of a special series, presented by Thrivent Financial, that focuses on a diversity of American inventors and innovations. 


There’s something you may not know about inventions: they're not all about moving parts or mass production. Inventions can be tiny — as in, molecular.

Flossie Wong-Staal is a specialist in virology, particularly HIV/AIDS (she and her colleagues discovered it in 1983), and has invented many protocols and tests surrounding the virus, including an invention that led to the world's first HIV test. She also developed an enzyme-based "molecular knife" that can cut up genetic information in AIDS patients.

She completed her postdoctoral research at University of California, San Diego in 1974, before leaving to work at the National Cancer Institute. It was at the institute where Wong-Staal began her research into retroviruses.

In 2002, Discover named Wong-Staal one of the fifty most extraordinary women scientists. Wong-Staal remains as a Research Professor of Medicine at UCSD. In 2014, she was recognized by the Asian Heritage Awards, who made this great tribute video:

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