How a diplomat discovered the joy of science
The author, Renilde Loeckx was introduced to the protagonists of the Cold War Triangle at an honorary doctorates ceremony in České Budějovice, a small university town in Southern Bohemia (Czech Republic). She served as ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium in Prague from 2008 until 2012 and had no science training whatsoever. The amazing story of the Czech-Belgian-American cooperation was what inspired her to write this book.
Ceremony on 4th June,2009 in České Budějovice. From left to right: Dr. John C Martin, then CEO of Gilead Sciences, Prof. Erik De Clercq, Rega institute Leuven, Prof. Libor Grubhoffer, then dean of the Science department at the University of Southern Bohemia, Prof. Antonín Holý and Prof. Zdeněk Havlas, then Holy’s successor as director of the IOCB in Prague.
After the author retired from the Belgian Foreign Service, she worked closely with Prof. Em. Erik De Clercq to study his memories and private papers. While learning and absorbing basic concepts of virology and chemistry, she wanted to understand what motivated the scientists in their research and how they influenced each other. In the "Cold War Triangle", she shares her journey into microbiology focusing on the human face of science.
Prof. Erik De Clercq and Renilde Loeckx at the University of Southern Bohemia in České Budějovice near a site commemorating Václav Havel.
Travels to the Czech Republic, Warsaw, New York, Paris and California opened the doors of Erik De Clercq’s wide network of friends and colleagues. The author was fortunate to witness the 100th birthday in Warsaw of the late Professor David Shugar who had introduced De Clercq to the world of nucleosides. In New York, she met with Prof. Jan Vilček, a former refugee from Czechoslovakia who became a prominent American scientist and benefactor of the New York University. In Prague, Renilde Loeckx had long talks with Professor Zdeněk Havlas, former Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as Tony Holý’s assistants. His widow, Ludmila Holá and his daughter, Dr. Dana Holá were especially helpful. The author’s access to John C. Martin, Executive Chairman of Gilead Sciences and his close collaborators allowed her to tell the story about how a relatively small pharmaceutical company was able to bring its life saving drugs to contain the scourge of AIDS around the world.
Renilde Loeckx with Dr. John C. Martin and Prof. Robert Gallo at an event in Baltimore in March 2017.
The author greatly benefited from the help of many scientists whom she gratefully acknowledges in her book. Her main pillars of support were her husband, William Drozdiak, former editor and correspondent of The Washington Post, and her children, who kept an eagle eye on linguistics and style of the native Dutch speaker.