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Editorial: Science To Save Lives

They are the kind of investments that pay dividends not only in cash but in lives.

A generic hair-loss medication that could unlock the key to a cure for HIV/AIDS. Alcohol sensors that could become as unobtrusive and commonplace in vehicles as air bags. Forget science fiction, both are on the drawing board to morph into science fact.

Vojo Deretic, chairman of the molecular genetics and microbiology department at the University of New Mexico, will use a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study how drugs like Rogaine (hair loss) and albuterol (asthma) stimulate a cell’s ability to clean itself by devouring unwanted material, such as HIV.

And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety have partnered on an ignition-interlock-like alcohol detection system. U.S. Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have proposed to authorize $12 million of existing annual funding for five years for NHTSA to keep working on the program.

Drug research can be prohibitively expensive. So Deretic hopes to identify “the cheap drug, relative to what a new drug would cost.” Technology development also can be prohibitively tricky.

But in the United States it is estimated that more than one million people are living with HIV and more than half a million have died after developing AIDS. Thirty people are killed every day in a crash involving a drunken driver. Developing inexpensive/readily accessible answers to disease, as well as socially acceptable methods to keep irresponsible drivers off the road are promising investments in America’s future.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.