Malibu pharmaceutical exec Kevin Young will become a Commander of the British Empire and will receive the commendation during a royal ceremony at Buckingham Palace tentatively scheduled within the next month.
By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times
Queen Elizabeth will be honoring a local, prominent pharmaceutical executive who helped pioneer the development of HIV and AIDS treatments across Europe and the United States.
Malibu resident Kevin Young has been appointed a Commander of the British Empire and will receive the commendation during a royal ceremony at Buckingham Palace tentatively scheduled within the next month.
The U.K.-born Young, an executive vice president with healthcare company Gilead Sciences, has called Malibu home in recent years and was chosen for the prestigious award earlier this month as part of the Queen’s biannual nomination process.
The title, abbreviated as CBE for short, is one step removed from a full-fledged knighthood and is one of Great Britain’s highest civilian honors. Part of a hierarchy called the Order of the British Empire, a CBE ranks, respectively, above an officer and a member (OBE and MBE), and is reserved for British citizens who have contributed to humanitarian and other important cultural and artistic causes.
The announcement of Young’s appointment to the prestigious order comes about nearly 30 years to the anniversary of the first publicly recognized HIV-positive patients in the United States.
Young, who has lived regularly near Zuma Beach for the last eight years, spent the majority of his career with Amgen before transferring to Gilead in 2004. His background in biotechnology led to his involvement in advancing innovative medications to treat HIV, namely, Atripla, developed at Gilead. Young said about one-third of all HIV patients are prescribed the drug, a one-pill-a-day regimen that replaced the panoply of pills associated with managing the disease.
With the drug, and those like it, he said, HIV-positive people susceptible to developing AIDS can live years longer than those who contracted the virus in the early years of the disease.
“They estimate that the total life expectancy goes to 70 (years old),” Young said. “From those early days of people dying from infections, and their immune systems being compromised, we’re at the point where treatments are tolerated in their regimens. An HIV patient now who is newly diagnosed can go on a single pill, once a day, and have their illness controlled.”
When the Queen made her selections for the Royal Order, Young learned how steeped in tradition the process was.
“The first thing was I got a call from the British Consulate,” he said. “The gentleman asked me to sit down and told me I had been nominated. The Queen sends you a letter and asks if you accept the appointment. It’s kind of an old fashioned way to do it.”
Young, who shuttles between Los Angeles and San Francisco for work, also discovered that mum was to be the word until an announcement from the U.K. government revealing the Queen’s accolades.
“I was told I had to keep quiet for the next month,” he said. “They’re very strict about leaking any news before the official time. I had to keep my mouth shut, which was very, very hard.”
His father will join him for the ceremony in England. “He’s the person who made me. It’ll be a very emotional time to stand with him and have this.”
Young said the face of HIV/AIDS has changed in the last three decades because of advancements in medicine and a breaking down of misinformation about the disease.
“It’s a much transformed disease,” he said. “It’s changed from a death sentence to a chronic disease, but one that still has major challenges around the ability to control [it], to do something about the overall demographics.”
But Young said there is still a shocking 250,000 people in the U.S. with HIV who still don’t know it.
“The real challenge around HIV is making sure we diagnose it,” he said.
Beyond the Queen’s honors, Young said what he is most proud of is advocating for the cure of a disease that has brought together a community of people in its wake.
“HIV is this amazing world of interconnection of people: the patients, the doctors, the advocates, the political people. They are very interlinked,” he said. “In a way, it’s a very small world, because everyone is connected for a small purpose.”