Dr. David Ho: The AIDS pioneer shifts to COVID-19

Now working on monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19, the virologist gained recognition in the 1990s for treating Magic Johnson. He first appeared on 60 Minutes in 1998.

1998: Dr. David Ho on treating Magic Johnson
1998: Dr. David Ho on treating Magic Johnson 03:35

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Scott Pelley reports on the race to develop therapeutic drugs to reduce the severity of COVID-19. He speaks with Dr. David Ho, a virologist whose team at Columbia University is working around the clock on monoclonal antibodies. 

When patients have COVID-19, their immune systems develop antibodies to attack the virus. Doctors can harvest those antibodies, clone them, and reproduce them in the billions to help patients sick with the virus. One such patient was President Donald Trump, who was given a monoclonal antibody therapy from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. 

It is not the first time Dr. Ho has worked on therapies to treat a high-profile virus with prominent patients — nor was it his first appearance on 60 Minutes. Prior to this year's pandemic, his specialty was AIDS research. In the 1990s, he helped pioneer a revolutionary drug cocktail for treating AIDS, making the illness a manageable disease, rather than a death sentence. 

Former NBA legend Magic Johnson has become the living example of Dr. Ho's work. In 1998, 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed Dr. Ho about Johnson, whom he has treated since Johnson's diagnosis nearly 30 years ago. 

In Stahl's report, Johnson's wife, Cookie, said the turning point in her husband's illness was nothing short of a miracle cure from God. 

But Dr. Ho insisted the treatment was not a miracle — and it wasn't a cure: "I think there's been a great deal of complacency just because of the progress that's been made in treatment." 

To watch Scott Pelley's 60 Minutes report on COVID-19 therapeutics, click here.