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Interview with a leading virus hunter

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How does a man who wanted to be in the theater, end up as maybe the nation’s preeminent virus hunter, or, as he says, “medical detective.”

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, who heads the 60-person-strong Center for Infection and Immunity, a biological research laboratory, at Columbia University, tells the story of how the theater lost him to science in a revealing interview with Llewellyn King, host of White House Chronicle, airing on select PBS and other stations, and SiriusXM Radio this weekend.

Lipkin opens up about his education and his work as a researcher — which he describes as being not so much a virus hunter as a medical detective. He also discusses how he was able to get a medical education, which might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, for just $25,000.

When there has been a medical crisis, a threatened global or regional pandemic, Lipkin has been called — and he has been for HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola, LuJo and West Nile virus. He was the primary researcher in the first case of West Nile in the United States.

Currently, he revealed to White House Chronicle, he is working on a zoonotic virus found in India. He is also concerned about the overuse of antibiotics, and their declining efficacy in treating a whole range of infectious diseases.

In the United States, Lipkin is fighting to understand one of the most awful and debilitating lifelong diseases: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for which Lipkin says he uses the acronym ME/CFS.

This disease, according to Lipkin, is little understood by doctors and is hard to diagnose “as there are no biological markers.”

“It was rare pleasure to interview Dr. Lipkin. It was one of the best interviews I have had the honor of conducting in my own long career,” King said. “As for the theater, I can see that Ian Lipkin would’ve starred on the stage as well as in science,” King added. “He is articulate and dynamic, and a forceful communicator for science.”

White House Chronicle airs nationwide on PBS and public, educational and government access stations, and on the commercial AMG TV network. It airs worldwide on Voice of America Television and Radio. An audio version airs three times weekends on SiriusXM Radio’s P.O.T.U.S., Channel 124. An interactive list of stations which carry the program can be found at

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