Dr. Opendra "Bill" Narayan died from a heart attack on Christmas Eve, just months before human clinical trials were set to begin for a HIV/AIDS vaccine that he helped create.
"Dr. Narayan was a brilliant researcher and professor," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said in a statement. "His pioneering work on HIV/AIDS brought international acclaim to himself and the university."
The 71-year-old Kansas University Medical Center doctor was the recipient of the Chancellors Club Research Award in 2003.
Narayan, who came to KU in 1993, was responsible for three grants from the National Institutes of Health that totaled more than $16 million over five years. Paul Terranova, vice chancellor for research at KUMC, said Narayan provided endless insights on the replication and actions of the HIV virus.
Terranova said that Narayan was one of the rare faculty members who was "a triple threat" because he excelled as a researcher, as an educator and in service to the university and the nation.
"From day one, he was a star," Terranova said. "He always held a very well-recognized research program."
Narayan came to KUMC from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and almost immediately began developing vaccines he hoped would help stem the AIDS epidemic. He had other vaccines advance into trials unsuccessfully; however, it never dissuaded him from trying a new approach.
"He was a leader and innovative person; that's why he was quite successful," Terranova said. "He was an extremely hard worker. We'll have to plan ahead to determine a course of action with his research."
Terranova said that the university will consult with NIH and Narayan's co-researchers to determine whether it's possible to continue the research on an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
"His major accomplishment, at least as of late, is the vaccine he developed," Terranova said. "He hoped to have it in human clinical trials within the next few months."