Dr. Ian McGowan

Headshot of Dr Ian McGowan

Dr. Ian McGowan, an esteemed clinician scientist, has dedicated his career to the development of innovative strategies for the treatment, prevention, and potential cure of HIV infection. After completing his medical training in Liverpool, Dr. McGowan pursued postgraduate training in sexual health and HIV infection at the Middlesex Hospital in London. Witnessing the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS on at-risk populations, he developed a keen interest in the gastrointestinal complications associated with the disease. This led him to conduct research on the mucosal pathogenesis of HIV infection at Oxford University and later at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In 1997, Dr. McGowan joined GlaxoWellcome in the UK to work on the development of antiretroviral drugs, contributing to the licensure of abacavir and amprenavir. Recognising the need for more effective and tolerable treatment regimens, he joined Gilead Sciences in California in 1998 and played a key role in the clinical development of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Viread®). This ground-breaking drug became the cornerstone of a new generation of HIV treatment regimens.

In 2002, Dr. McGowan returned to academia and was appointed Professor of Medicine at UCLA, and continued his research on the mucosal pathogenesis of HIV infection. During this time, he also engaged with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), participating in the first HIV prevention trials of topical antiretroviral products, or microbicides.

In 2006, Dr. McGowan was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, where he submitted a successful grant proposal to the NIH, establishing the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) with initial funding of $120 million. Over the course of 11 years, the MTN conducted numerous international HIV prevention studies in at-risk men and women, and lead to the licensing of a dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention.

In addition to his MTN responsibilities, Dr. McGowan collaborated on research projects with various institutions, including the University of Oxford and the University of Liverpool. His laboratory in Pittsburgh became renowned for Phase 1 pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies and the investigation of novel long-acting injectable antiretroviral agents.

In 2017, Dr. McGowan assumed the role of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at AELIX Therapeutics, a Spanish company focused on developing vaccines to reprogram the immune response in people living with HIV. The goal was to achieve a functional cure of HIV infection. The results of their first trial, AELIX-002, published in Nature Medicine in 2022, demonstrated the vaccine's ability to impact viral rebound after treatment interruption, a critical step in the quest for an HIV cure.

Despite his international profile, Dr. McGowan maintained strong ties with Liverpool. In 2009, he pursued a second doctoral degree at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), focusing on the development of rectal microbicides for HIV prevention. LSTM accommodated his unique background and demanding travel schedule, allowing him to successfully complete his MD in 2014.

Reflecting on his 35 years of HIV research, Dr. McGowan feels privileged to have witnessed an evolving understanding of the pathogenesis of HIV infection, optimised treatment regimens, and the establishment of multiple prevention options. His ultimate goal remains the cure of HIV infection.

Currently residing in Spain with his husband, Dr. McGowan serves as the CMO at Orion Biotechnology, where he focuses on developing novel immuno-oncology therapies for patients with treatment-refractory metastatic cancer and extremely limited treatment options. In many ways a similar population to the patients he encountered at the beginning of his career.

We want to hear from you and learn about your post-graduation journey. Share your success stories, challenges, and experiences with us. Your insights will help inspire and guide the next generation of graduates. Get in touch with us today and let's stay connected!