Reflections on Bonnie Mathieson

Bonnie Mathieson, PhD

Everyone who ever met Bonnie Mathieson had to be taken in with her smile, her enthusiasm for science, her great questions at meetings, and her keen perceptions about HIV and the field of HIV vaccines. We in the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) community owe enormous thanks and gratitude for her support and guidance since the advent of our organization 17 years ago. We are all saddened by the news of her abrupt passing; the only solace is that she was doing what she loved. But, while her life was well lived, it also was too short. As such, we grieve not only for ourselves, but also for her large cadre of friends, and of course, her family.

We could write more words. But, the video clip we have attached speaks for itself – it is “pure Bonnie,” showing her enthusiasm for promulgating the careers of young investigators, and reflecting her modesty, her winsome smile, and enthusiasm and drive for developing a globally effective HIV vaccine.

We will miss her greatly. We are truly fortunate we have a way to remember her with the award that was created in her name.

The HVTN Executive Management Team for the entire HVTN Community

Glenda Gray           Larry Corey                  Scott Hammer           Julie McElrath
                 Jim Kublin           
 Susan Buchbinder               Peter Gilbert

"I met Bonnie Mathieson while I was a young visiting scientist at NIH in the lab of Dick Asofsky in 1980 1981 and we cooperated by then . I met her subsequently occasionally during some HIV or IUIS meetings. I was from the start deeply impressed by her Science ( She was the first as an anecdote to test John Ray's deposited NIH "anti I-J reference antisera on C3H and C57Bl/6 thymocytes by FACS and find identical profiles...). Her science has been maintained since then at the highest level but above all I still remember how enjoyable cheerful and humoresque person she was. The proof of all that lies in the fact that 37 years after our cohabitation at NIAID I  still imprinted by it. Her death is a loss for the scientific community. Sincere condoleances to Don Mathieson of course."

-Dr Gérard Chaouat,
emeritus Cnrs directeur de recherches

"Bonnie Mathieson, an indefatigable supporter of HIV vaccines, brought enthusiasm as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of research past and present to the field. I first met her in the early days of DNA vaccines when she expressed interest rather than the more general disbelief. She also marched to her own drum in recognizing and  championing vaccines for the developed world as well as the more widely supported vaccines for the developing world. It was with great sadness that I learned of her untimely death. But I would like her to know that her unique role in the field of HIV vaccines was much appreciated and that she will not be forgotten."

-Harriet L. Robinson, Ph.D., GeoVax, Inc.

"I was very sad to hear about Bonnie’s sudden death last week. I’ve known her since the late 1990’s when I started AIDS Vaccine work as a postdoc at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. It was always a pleasure to see her at conferences. To be greeted with a hug and then be gently quizzed about the latest research developments with her ceaseless, cheery enthusiasm. Conferences will not be the same without her energy, warmth and curiosity. I will miss her greatly."

-James Binley, Ph.D.,
San Diego Biomedical Research Institute

"Bonnie was a very special and exceptional person, not just for her expansive knowledge and network of relationships, but also for the depth of her caring. She cared about the people suffering from HIV, the research, and also the researchers. She always looked for win-win outcomes in the resolution of conflict, and always with a sense of humor and keeping her own ego out of it. She was planning to come work with us at the VRC after she returned from Aruba joking that she preferred snorkeling to shoveling snow in her last email to us. Her intent was to focus on the application of passive monoclonal antibodies as an adjunct to ARVs as the best approach to end the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. This important work will now have special significance for me as we continue our efforts to protect “Bonnie’s babies”."

-Barney S. Graham, MD, PhD
Vaccine Research Center

"Bonnie’s appetite for HIV vaccine science was insatiable – the only person I’ve ever known to become downright giddy from listening to hour after hour of data presentation. I always meant to ask her if she had a photographic memory – how else could she know and remember so so many things…! I will think of her every time I see a pair of Birkenstocks or hear mention of Aruba, and I will yearn for her passion and advocacy every time I worry that we are just not trying hard enough… "

-Nina Russell, MD, Deputy Director, HIV
HIV Vaccines,
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

"Bonnie‘s death is a great loss to HIV science, and also for me personally as a friend.  I first met Bonnie in the early 1990’s, when she approached me to jointly work together on active-passive immunization for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission – 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.  Over the 25+ years I knew her, she was always a great advocate for ensuring children and youth were not forgotten in the HIV vaccine field.  Her knowledge of HIV vaccine research and immunology was remarkable, as was her persistence in making sure that cutting edge science was moved forward.  She also was intent on ensuring the next generation of researchers was nurtured.  After I left NIH in 2014, we had many discussions on what “retirement” might be like, and she finally took the step in December, only to have this new phase in her life sadly cut short.  She was also a very 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, our many long discussions at CROI/IAS about the latest vaccine research and implications for pediatric HIV research, and most of all miss her friendship."

-Lynne M. Mofenson MD,

Senior HIV Technical Advisor, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

"I am so sad to hear about the untimely death of Bonnie Mathieson. When I think of her I see her big smile and feel her infectious energy and enthusiasm. What an extraordinary human being. No obstacle was too challenging for her creativity and her brilliance. Her impact on the HIV community will be felt forever. I feel lucky to have known her and worked with her in the early days of our Foundation. She will be missed."

-Susan DeLaurentis
Co-Founder Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

"Smart, Passionate, Sincere, Unrelenting. That was our Bonnie.

She held a special place in our professional world. Highly respected, well-liked and committed to do what was best.

Her impact will be felt for many years to come."

-John Mascola,
Vaccine Research Center