Antonín Holý

Today in Mailbox: Response to Radio Prague programmes, answers to our mystery Czech listeners' quiz. Listeners quoted: Stephen Hrebenach, Jaroslaw Jedrzejczak, Colin Law, Zara Modu, Charles Konecny, Syed Ali Akbar.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Hello and welcome to Radio Prague’s Mailbox. Thank you very much for all your comments and likes on our Facebook page as well as your quiz answers and other e-mails you have sent us over the past weeks.

Stephen Hrebenach from the United States wrote:

“Hello again. I was just listening to the Sunday music show and, as a jazz fan, enjoying it immensely. I have to admit that I had not heard of Karel Krautgartner before this show, but he could really play. Many thanks for giving his music the spotlight this week.

“I had also been meaning to mention the Arts feature a few weeks ago about the 2002 flood exhibition. I found that quite interesting, so much so that I did an internet search for the book that was mentioned. I found the Czech Press Photo website that stated that the book was in Czech and English and could be ordered from them. Unfortunately, I have yet to get a reply to my inquiry to them.

“Many thanks as well for bringing Magazine back as part of the rotation of features on the weekend. I really do enjoy it.

“By the way, I had noticed that your weekend programming is available on the website earlier than the rest of the week. What time do the programs normally update?”

The weekend programmes are published on our website gradually before the premiere at 3 pm CET which – we hope – is more convenient for our audiences in the Eastern hemisphere as they receive for example Sunday features on Sunday rather than Monday.

Jaroslaw Jedrzejczak from Poland answered our August mystery Czech question and added a note:

“The name of the Czech chemist who was behind the development of a number of groundbreaking antiretroviral drugs used around the world to treat diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B is Antonín Holý. Mr Antonín Holy died on July 16, 2012. I was in Prague this day. I visited the Czech Republic from 14 July till 21 July 2012. I saw the Radio Prague building. Enclosed please find my photo. ‘Byl jsem s Vámi!’ – I was with you!”

Colin Law from New Zealand wrote:

“Antonín’s father worked for ČKD, an engineering company formed through the amalgamation of two small companies, Českomoravská-Kolben and Breitfeld-Daněk. CKD was one of the main suppliers of Czechoslovak military vehicles during the 1930s and after World War 2 it became one of the world’s leading producers of trams. But Antonín looked for a career beyond engineering: his interest lay in chemistry from a very early age – at the age of 8 he was found in the attic of their home with a high school natural sciences textbook with illustrations of experiments.

“Antonín graduated from high school in Karlín, studied organic chemistry at Charles University in Prague and went on to lecture in Chemistry. In 1960 he applied for postgraduate studies at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry and it was there over the next 50 years that he extended his research into nucleic acids and viruses, helping to discover substances that are part of drugs now credited with saving thousands of lives and that are currently used in treating HIV, hepatitis B, smallpox and related viruses.

Antonín Holý
“In 1986 Holý was appointed Doctor of Sciences, the highest scientific degree in the Academy of Sciences. He has over 60 patents registered to his name and has written some 600 scientific papers relating to his research. Between 1995 and 2003 he was Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. From 2002 he was Head of Chemistry of Nucleic Acids. During his life he attained several honorary degrees, medals and other awards in world-wide recognition of his research achievements.

“Holý retired in 2011 because of failing health. In a 2011 interview his wife Ludmila commented that he had never gone to the United States because he didn't want to leave his parents. Even under the restrictions of communism he had made his own apparatus and ‘cooked up’ compounds necessary for his research.

“The funeral for Antonín Holý took place on Tuesday 24 July 2012 and was attended by the Czech Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Czech Academy of Sciences, a former director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Academy of Sciences, together with scientists, colleagues, co-workers and students.”

Zara Modu from Nigeria sent us this answer:

“His research and discoveries have helped hundreds of thousands of people, but Professor Antonín Holý, who died on July 16, aged 75, was motivated more by science than philanthropy. All his colleagues describe him as hardworking, proud and strong -minded, some don’t hesitate even to use the word genius to characterize him. The academy of science researcher was a creator of such groundbreaking medicines as a preparation that allows HIV-positive mothers to have HIV-negative children. His main domain was the chemistry of components in nucleic acids, in which Holý was a world leading capacity.

“His discoveries have found practical uses in medicine, especially against viral diseases. The medication Viread, for example, is currently the most efficient drug against AIDS. Research estimates suggest more than 70 percent of all treated HIV patients use a preparation developed by Holý. Most of Holy's collaborators agree he was an extremely hardworking man. In1960, Holý joined the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. He remained loyal to this institution all his life, although his success in applied science is connected mainly with the US-based company Gilead Sciences, which sponsored Holý's patents when he struggled to find a developer not only in communist Czechoslovakia but in the whole of Europe.”

Charles Konecny from the United States writes:

“Holý's drug discoveries have benefited many but especially the HIV/AIDS infected gay community and others who engage in high risk sexual activity. When the AIDS epidemic began, those infected had a death sentence. These days, with drugs that Holý helped develop, they can live much longer with relatively healthy lives. Although he recently died, one can say Holý went out with a ‘bang’ as on the day he died the U.S. FDA approved ‘Truvada’, an improved drug Holý and others developed to reduce the risk of AIDS infection. Now, if only they could make a drug that would reduce the number of those high risk sexual adventures. Actually, there is one. It's called....... ‘common sense’.”

And Syed Ali Akbar from Pakistan wrote:

“Professor Antonín Holý, Czech researcher and chemist of world importance who discovered compounds that help treat millions of patients worldwide, died on July 16th, 2012 aged 75. The compounds developed by Prof. Holý are part of the most efficient and also accessible drugs against HIV/AIDS, the smallpox virus, shingles, eye inflammation and hepatitis B.”

Many thanks for your answers and this time the symbolic prize goes to Syed Ali Akbar from Pakistan. Congratulations! And here is another question for the coming weeks.

This time we would like to know the name of the Bohemian nobleman and Austrian general born in 1766 whose memory was made immortal by a famous march by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss I.

Please send us your answers by September 19 to [email protected]. That is also the address for your questions and comments regarding our programmes. You can also find us on Facebook, at If you become a Radio Prague fan, you can leave your comments right there on our Facebook page. Thank you for tuning in today and until next time, happy listening!