Gallo’s Institute of Human Virology Not ‘Economic Engine’ Maryland Officials Said it Would be, Baltimore Sun Reports
The Baltimore Sun reports that AIDS researcher Robert Gallo's Institute of Human Virology is not the "economic engine" Maryland officials promised taxpayers it would be when they offered the researcher $12 million to establish a lab in Baltimore in 1996. Although the institute has applied for 19 patents and runs three "highly regarded" clinics that treat 2,500 Baltimore city AIDS patients, many of whom are poor and uninsured, it "has yet" to spin off any companies or bring other biotechnology firms to the state. "I don't know who made the promise," Gallo said, adding, "I promise[d] that we would make a very good institute of biomedical science." The lab employs about 200 people and has an annual budget of $25 million, including about $3 million from the state. "Dr. Gallo has delivered on every promise except spinning off business, and he's planning to do that soon," Jennie Hunter-Cevera, president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, which oversees Gallo's lab, said. The company, Maryland Biotherapeutics Inc., will market vaccine technology developed by Gallo's institute. "I expect in the next 10 years that this place will double in size, and I expect we'll spin off at least three companies," Gallo said, adding, "This is not the time Baltimore wants to pull in its horns regarding biotechnology" (Pelton, Baltimore Sun, 2/18).
Book Reveals 'Gruesome' Greed Among Scientists
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday reviewed "Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, Massive Cover-Up, and the Dark Legacy of Robert Gallo," written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune writer John Crewdson, which examines Gallo's role in the search for the cause of AIDS during the 1980s. Helen Epstein, a former professor of biotechnology at Makerere University in Uganda, writes for the Times that Crewdson's story of Gallo's "relentless insistence that he was the first to discover HIV and the first to develop a blood test for it ... is gruesome, indeed harrowing, for suggesting what happens when scientists succumb to ego and greed in the race for discovery." She adds that the book "shed[s] considerable light on the way science works in America and the larger dilemma it may be facing," as returns in medical research "have been relatively poor recently" and science becomes more "bureaucratized" (Epstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/17). The full article is available online.