Newly Created Institute ‘Rare Bit of Good News’ In HIV/AIDS Vaccine Efforts, Editorial Says
Although former President George W. Bush "made an ambitious new commitment to the global fight against AIDS," and Congress in 2008 "authorized billions in new spending," lawmakers and philanthropists "will retreat" as the current economic recession continues, a Providence Journal editorial says. So it "comes as a rare bit of good news" that Phillip Ragon -- founder of the software company InterSystems Corp. -- is "giving $100 million of his own to the quest for an AIDS vaccine," the Journal says. Ragon "will allocate his gift in $10 million annual installments over 10 years" to the newly formed Ragon Institute -- a collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University -- the Journal continues, adding that the three groups will "join in an effort to find new approaches" to an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
A vaccine for HIV/AIDS "has been the holy grail of AIDS research" but has proven difficult to find because the disease "has shown an uncanny ability to alter its makeup and elude destruction," the editorial says. The Ragon Institute aims "to find new ways of deploying the immune system against a variety of diseases, not just AIDS," the Journal writes, adding that the "hope is that, for example, MIT engineers can lend new perspectives to the medical doctors, biologists and others who have already spent years tilling this hard soil." The Journal says that "[p]hilanthropists everywhere are cutting back on or suspending charitable contributions," but a 2007 visit to South Africa "convinced [Ragon] there was no time to waste." Ragon's "inspiring example may encourage others leery of giving. May the Ragon Institute succeed," the editorial concludes (Providence Journal, 3/27).