Francis Allen (Frank) Plummer Medicine

World's premier HIV/AIDS researcher

The Story

Dr. Frank Plummer was born in a family of educators. He studied medicine but did not think of becoming one of the world’s leading specialists on HIV/AIDS, whose research would expand the knowledge of AIDS.

After completing his medical degree and clinical training, Dr. Plummer went to Nairobi in 1981 to study infectious diseases. This one-year fellowship that appeared as an adventure at the time, turned out to be a career move. In 1984, Dr. Plummer returned to Kenya where he spent the next 16 years researching sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

During those years, Dr. Plummer worked with the Center for Research and Training in STDs at the University of Nairobi. He also collaborated with infectious disease and public health experts at the University of Manitoba, the University of Washington, the University of Ghent in Belgium and Oxford University.

In Africa, Dr. Plummer closely observed the AIDS epidemic. Although in the late 1980s the world viewed HIV/AIDS as a homosexual disease, Dr. Plummer revealed that heterosexual women could be also infected. During his study of 500 Nairobi prostitutes, he found that two thirds of them had HIV/AIDS. However, in 1988, Dr. Plummer discovered among them a group of women that did not contract AIDS. This discovery suggested that those women had natural immunity to the disease and that a vaccine could be eventually developed.

In 2000, he accepted the position of Scientific Director General of the National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, in Winnipeg. In 2001, Dr. Plummer returned to Canada and rejoined the Department of Microbiology at the University of Manitoba and subsequently in 2003 was appointed Director General of the Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control (CIDPC).

In June 2005, Dr. Plummer and his team received $8.3 million US over five years from the Gates Foundation to continue the studies on Kenyan prostitutes and develop a potential vaccine against HIV.


Canadians earn grants from Gates Foundation

Frank Plummer: AIDS Vaccine Crusader A brief description of Dr. Plummer’s studies, achievements, and personal interests.

Sarah Schmidt, "Pioneer unlocks AIDS secrets: Canadian Frank Plummer's studies of African prostitutes lead to development of a vaccine," Ottawa Citizen

Image: Canada Research Chairs


The Person

December 2, 1952
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Family Members
  • Wife
  • Three daughters
Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Medical Microbiology, Scientific Director General
Health Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory
  • MD, University of Manitoba, 1976
  • LLD Honorary Degree, University of Calgary, 2005
  • Canada Research Chair in Resistance and Susceptibility to Infections, 2001
Last Updated
December 14, 2010

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