- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

DURBAN, South Africa (Agence France-Presse) — A Washington-area scientist says he lost priceless work on an AIDS vaccine when he was mugged at knife point while attending an AIDS conference in South Africa.

James Mullins, a professor of microbiology at George Washington University, said Monday that seven men attacked him Sunday afternoon outside his hotel in Durban, taking his laptop, which contained years of research that could have led to an AIDS vaccine.

“One of the men stuck a knife in my chest and the rest took my cellphone, wallet and laptop,” he said. “The total value of the goods is about $4,000, but the research is my life’s work and is absolutely priceless.”

Dr. Mullins said the research, which has not been published, focused on HIV and how it changes in the body over a period of time.

“I wanted to tell the conference that I think we understand how this disease happens and we could have an exciting opportunity to create a vaccine,” he said.

“It was cutting-edge material that I wanted to release when I spoke at the conference this morning, but obviously I was unable to do this.”

Dr. Mullins said he had back-up copies of some of his work, but much of his latest research had not been copied. He has offered a $1,000 reward for the return of the laptop.

“Somewhere in Durban, a mugger is sitting with a possible AIDS vaccine,” he said.

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