Francis W. Ruscetti, PhD has had a lifelong love affair with scientific discovery and participated in several seminal discoveries. In 1975, while a fellow at University of Pittsburgh, he discovered Interleukin-5. In 1978 at National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Ruscetti’s team discovered interleukin 2 (T-Cell Growth factor), for which they won a team award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer. In 1980, the team he directed at the NCI isolated the first known disease-causing human retrovirus, HTLV-1, opening the field of human retrovirology, which would rise to critical importance during the HIV-AIDS epidemic. During the 1980s, his team identified IL-15, an additional immune response regulator. In hematology, his team demonstrated that human cord blood cells proliferate continuously in vitro and TGF Beta functions as a bidirectional regulator of the hematopoietic stem cell. These discoveries have all been the basis for the development of useful therapeutics.
In 2013, the IL-2 manuscript was recognized by the American Association of Immunologists as the second most important paper published in their Journal in the past hundred years. Similarly, the HTLV-1 manuscript was cited as one of the thirty most important papers in the hundred years of the publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Ruscetti received the “Distinguished Service Award” from the National Institutes of Health. In order to develop new antiviral drugs, Ruscetti and Dr. Mikovits work on understanding the contribution of inflammatory pathways in disease, specifically how retroviruses dysregulate DNA methylation. In 2009, they identified a new family of retroviruses, the XMRVs from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). After thirty-nine years at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Ruscetti retired in 2013, with more than 325 publications. Since his retirement, he has been consulting with patients and their families, continuing his lifelong effort to understand the process of chronic disease development and develop therapeutic treatment strategies.
Dr. Judy A. Mikovits spent twenty years at the National Cancer Institute, working with Dr. Francis W. Ruscetti, one of the founding fathers of human retrovirology, and has coauthored more than forty scientific papers. She co-founded and directed the first neuroimmune disease institute using a systems biology approach in 2006. Dr. Mikovits lives in Southern California with her husband, David.
Kent Heckenlively, JD, is an attorney, science teacher, and New York Times bestselling author. During college Heckenlively worked for US Senator Pete Wilson, and in law school he was a writer and an editor of the school’s law review and spent his summers working for the US Attorney’s Office in San Francisco. Kent and his wife Linda live in Northern California with their two children, Jacqueline and Ben.