It is with great sadness that we share the news with you that our friend and colleague, Professor Stephen Lawn, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Cape Town, has died at age 50.
Steve Lawn was very well known in South Africa and internationally for his pioneering work on the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis among populations affected by HIV/AIDS.
A London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine statement reads: “In 2014 he was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumour and, despite neurosurgery, radiotherapy and repeated chemotherapy, he has continued to work and teach throughout the past two years with his characteristic brilliance, warmth and humour.
“Steve Lawn has made major contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis among populations affected by HIV/Aids, and to reducing the burden of HIV-associated TB. His pioneering work has resulted in over 250 publications including many influential papers particularly on rapid diagnostic screening for TB, and making important contributions to World Health Organisation guidelines.
“Steve was professor of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and closely linked to the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town, where he was based from 2005 to 2012. His work was honoured by the Desmond Tutu Foundation and the government of South Africa, and awarded the Royal Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s Chalmers Medal.
“Returning to London in 2012, he continued to contribute greatly to the work and life of the school, leading the very popular HIV/Aids module, supervising PhD students, and continuing ground-breaking research on HIV-associated TB in southern Africa. He was a strong supporter and very active member of the School’s growing TB Centre.
“Above all, Steve was passionately committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in some of the world’s poorest communities. He was inspired by faith and love, and was in turn greatly loved by colleagues and students alike. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with Steve’s family and many friends; his wife Joy Lawn is also a professor at the School, and they have two children – Tim (21) and Joanna (19).
“Steve and Joy together with colleagues in the TB Centre in London, those in Cape Town and around the world, decided to establish a Memorial Fund. This will support a lecture to be given annually, in London and Cape Town, by a leading TB researcher. In addition, there will be a monetary prize for an upcoming researcher conducting work focused on reducing the disease burden of TB and Aids in Africa.”
As well as a professor of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Lawn was an honorary associate professor of infectious diseases and HIV medicine at the University of Cape Town.
He completed his clinical training in infectious diseases in London and has previously worked as a lecturer for the Universities of Ghana in West Africa and was a research fellow for four years at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, conducting laboratory-based research on the co-pathogenesis of HIV and tuberculosis (TB).
With funding from the Wellcome Trust, he was based at the University of Cape Town from 2005 to 2012 where he conducted clinical, epidemiological and laboratory studies on HIV-associated tuberculosis (TB) in the context of the rapid scale-up of antiretroviral treatment (ART). Recent research has focused on evaluation of new TB diagnostics for screening for HIV-associated TB and on the role of ART in the prevention of HIV-associated TB at individual and population levels.
Since 2012, he has been based in London, with ongoing research activities on HIV-associated TB in South Africa. He was the chief investigator for the STAMP Trial in Malawi and South Africa (ISRCTN71603869), which aims to reduce facility-based deaths from HIV-associated TB through use of a novel urine-based TB screening strategy.