Emerging in
an Epidemic

On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published what would become known as the earliest reported cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Since that time, the epidemic has killed over 30 million people worldwide and has impacted countless more lives. Driven by the tragedies of the crisis, Cerus was founded to apply scientific innovation to safeguard the world’s blood supply from HIV and numerous other pathogens. Cerus continues to develop new technologies that will help ensure the lifeblood of our healthcare system is guarded in an age of pandemics.



  • CDC reports cases of a rare lung infection, now considered the first official reporting of AIDS cases.
  • First U.S. Congressional hearings on AIDS in Los Angeles.
  • CDC estimates tens of thousands of cases.
  • CDC begins using the term AIDS.
  • CDC reports a transfusion-transmitted case of AIDS in an infant patient.
UCSF hematology Patients
  • UCSF patients contract AIDS via contaminated blood transfusion and ask Laurence Corash, MD, hematologist at UCSF, and his colleagues to prevent this from happening again.
  • French virologists, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, PhD, Luc A. Montagnier, PhD, and colleagues publish in Science their discovery of the virus responsible for HIV. That same year, U.S. National Cancer Institute researcher Robert Gallo, MD, also discovers the virus responsible for HIV.
  • U.S. Congress passes first funding bill for AIDS research and treatment.
  • WHO holds 1st global AIDS meeting to assess and strategize.
  • Ryan White, 13-year-old pediatric hemophilia patient in Indiana, is diagnosed with HIV from contaminated blood transfusion.
  • CDC modifies the definition of an AIDS case to include causation via a newly identified virus and issues blood screening guidelines.
  • U.S. FDA licenses the 1st test to screen blood for exposure to HIV, developed by Abbott, and U.S. blood banks begin screening blood for HIV.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s first public reference to AIDS.
  • Actor Rock Hudson, the first high-profile person to acknowledge his AIDS status, dies.
  • Laurence Corash, MD meets John Hearst, PhD, Lily Lin, PhD, Steve Isaacs, and George Cimino, the team that will ultimately form Cerus Corporation.
  • International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses states that the virus will be known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
  • U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on AIDS by Dr. C. Everett Koop specifies that HIV is not spread casually and calls for nationwide education campaign.
  • WHO launches The Global Program on AIDS to propel research, encourage NGOs and promote patient rights.
  • First antiretroviral drug for AIDS – zidovudine (AZT) – is approved by the FDA.
  • U.S. FDA sanctions first human testing of an HIV vaccine.
  • UN General Assembly debates AIDS on its floor and mobilizes against the disease.
  • World AIDS Day observed for 1st time.
  • 2020 Nobel Prize winner Harvey Alter, MD, Laurence Corash, MD, and colleagues publish proof-of-principle study in The Lancet, demonstrating inactivation of hepatitis viruses in plasma for transfusion with photochemical psoralen-based treatment.
  • AIDS cases in U.S. reach 100,000, according to the CDC.
  • Lily Lin, PhD and colleagues publish results in Blood demonstrating inactivation of bacteria and viruses in platelet concentrates for transfusion with photochemical psoralen-based treatment.
  • The U.S. Public Health Service introduces post-exposure use of AZT.
  • FDA approves use of AZT to treat pediatric AIDS.
  • American basketball player, Earvin “Magic” Johnson announces that he is HIV-positive.
  • British lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, 45, dies of AIDS-related illness.
  • U.S. tennis champion Arthur Ashe announces that he has AIDS, likely via HIV contaminated blood transfusion.
  • Cerus Corporation is born via raising first round of funding to develop pathogen inactivation systems for protecting the blood supply.
  • Soviet Union-born, Austrian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, 54, dies of AIDS-related illness.
  • Lily Lin, PhD and colleagues publish results in Blood demonstrating inactivation of HIV in platelet concentrates for transfusion with photochemical psoralen-based treatment.
  • FDA approves oral HIV test.
  • In the U.S., 500,000 cases of AIDS have been reported.
  • First transfusion of psoralen-treated platelets into humans is conducted in Cerus and partner Baxter’s Phase I trial.
  • UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) begins advocating for global action.
  • 11th International AIDS Conference, in Vancouver, highlights use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
  • Worldwide cases top 30 million adults and children worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
  • Cerus Corporation makes initial public offering of common stock.
  • CDC issues first national treatment guidelines for antiretroviral therapy.
  • Number of sub-Saharan women with HIV/AIDS exceeds that of men, according to UNAIDS.
  • Cerus initiates the European phase 3 euroSPRITE trial for pathogen inactivated platelets.
  • WHO declares HIV/AIDS the 4th biggest killer worldwide and top killer in Africa. 33 million are living with HIV worldwide, 14 million died of AIDS.
  • Cerus initiates the U.S. phase 3 SPRINT trial for pathogen inactivated platelets.
  • UN Security Council meets on peace and security in Africa, as a result of AIDS.
  • UN General Assembly holds Special Session on AIDS and passes workplace resolution and creates a global fund to combat spread.
  • Life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa falls from 62 to 47 years, as a result of AIDS, according to UNAIDS.
  • U.S. FDA approves first rapid test kit for HIV with 99.6% accuracy, without requiring clinical setting.
  • Cerus initiates two European phase 3 trials for pathogen inactivated red blood cells for acute and chronic anemia patients.
  • Cerus receives CE Mark approval in Europe for pathogen inactivated INTERCEPT platelets.
  • INTERCEPT Blood System Original Logo
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates $60 million grant to International Partnership for Microbicides for research and development of microbicides to prevent HIV transmission.
  • G8 Summit focuses on HIV/AIDS and announces commitments to Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  • G8 leaders call for creation of Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise to coordinate efforts of private-sector and government efforts.
  • World Economic Forum approves prioritization of HIV/AIDS in Africa and other hard-hit regions.
  • WHO, UNAIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria report distribution of antiretroviral drugs to 700,000 people in developing countries by end of 2004.
  • Scientists report signs of HIV-like virus in chimpanzees in Cameroon, supporting theory that infected blood from wild chimps triggered first HIV infections in humans.
  • EFS-Ile de La Reunion implements the INTERCEPT Blood System for platelets in order to sustain the blood supply during the Chikungunya epidemic on the South Indian Ocean island.
  • Cerus receives CE Mark approval in Europe for pathogen inactivated INTERCEPT plasma.
  • WHO and AIDS report leveling off of HIV cases and declining number of deaths from HIV-related illnesses.
  • International study predicts greatly increased life expectancies for those taking HIV treatment.
  • Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to French virologists, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, PhD, and Luc A. Montagnier, PhD, for their 1983 discovery of HIV.
  • UNAIDS reports 17% decline in new HIV infections over past decade, while East Asia has seen 25% increase over same period.
  • Report by WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF states 5.25 million people receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2009 and 1.2 million starting that same year — largest annual increase to date.
    • CDC study and separate clinical trial announce evidence that antiretroviral drugs can help prevent new infections in those exposed HIV through heterosexual sex.
  • FDA approves first HIV test to be used at home, with immediate results.
  • FDA approves Gilead’s Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy, Truvada.
  • Cerus, the University Hospitals of Geneva, and the Transfusion Service of the Swiss Red Cross announce plans to collaborate on whole blood pathogen inactivation for blood transfusion safety in Africa.
  • UNAIDS reports 50% drop in HIV infections among 25 low- and middle-income countries. 63% increase in people taking antiretroviral treatment in past two years.
  • Number of women living with HIV globally continues to increase, according to UN Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Cerus receives authorization from the FDA to initiate a clinical trial in collaboration with Emory University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center to make the INTERCEPT Blood System available for treatment of Ebola convalescent plasma.
  • Cerus receives FDA approval for the INTERCEPT Blood System for platelets and plasma.
  • Sweden is the first country to reach the “90-90-90” targets for HIV.
  • Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study states that early adoption antiretroviral drugs by HIV-positive people considerably lowers risk of developing AIDS and other serious illnesses.
  • UNAIDS finds that 15.8 million people using antiretroviral treatment as of June — more than double 2010 numbers.
  • NIH and partners announce November launch of HIV vaccine trial in South Africa, the largest vaccine clinical trial since 2009.
  • During the Zika epidemic, Cerus receives U.S. HHS BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) award of up to ~$200 million to advance the INTERCEPT red blood cell program.
  • Cerus initiates the U.S. phase 3 RedeS trial in Puerto Rico with pathogen inactivated red blood cells.
  • Cerus initiates the U.S. phase 3 ReCePI trial with pathogen inactivated red blood cells for acute anemia patients.

  • FDA grants Breakthrough Device designation for Cerus’ INTERCEPT Fibrinogen Complex for control of massive bleeding associated with fibrinogen deficiency.
  • U.S. announces initiative to end the national HIV epidemic by 2030.
  • Cerus receives U.S. FDA approval for INTERCEPT Fibrinogen Complex for the treatment and control of bleeding, including massive hemorrhage, associated with fibrinogen deficiency.

The devastation of the HIV epidemic on the world is broad and far-reaching. There can be no single source that can adequately capture the global human impact, political and social initiatives, nor the scientific contributions to understanding and improving outcomes. Please accept this simple timeline as a small representation of the larger HIV story. We encourage all readers to visit the sources listed below for more information.