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State aid for Gallo urged Scientist proposes Baltimore institute to study viruses; 'Epicenter of bio-research'; Approval expected for initial funding; critics cite ethics

Excited by the prospect of bringing money, jobs and prestige to Maryland by making the state an international center for medical research, an array of government and business leaders yesterday urged approval of state funding for Dr. Robert C. Gallo's proposed Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore.

During more than four hours of testimony before the General Assembly's two budget committees, supporters and lawmakers swept aside nagging, decadelong allegations that the controversial Dr. Gallo acted unethically when he claimed sole -- credit for some of the most famous discoveries in AIDS research.

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House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. Rawlings and Senate Budget and Taxation Chairwoman Barbara A. Hoffman predicted that their committees will approve the initial $3 million for the project, which ultimately would cost state taxpayers an estimated $24 million.

"The implications for humankind are phenomenal," Mrs. Hoffman said. "Any state that gets this team and this institute is going to be automatically in the forefront of the cutting edge of science and technology."

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The institute, which is to be part of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, would be housed in the renovated former Hutzler's department store warehouse in downtown Baltimore.

Institute scientists are expected to work closely with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System.

State Economic Development Secretary James T. Brady described Dr. Gallo as "a world-renowned superstar."

"This is not your usual economic development deal," he said. "This is not putting up a warehouse in Harford County."

University of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said work at the institute "will help us understand some of the most dangerous, virulent diseases that afflict mankind. And that's not hyperbole."

Dr. Gallo said the institute's primary goal will be to develop "better therapy for HIV-infected people," but he added that re

search also will concentrate on viruses that cause some cancers and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

"You can expect Maryland to become the epicenter of bio-research," Dr. Langenberg said.

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Others who turned out to support the project included Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Chamber of Commerce President Champe C. McCulloch and the presidents of several University of Maryland campuses.

The General Assembly's budget agency also recommended approval.

But Fiscal Services Director William S. Ratchford II said his agency wasn't qualified to sort out the enormous volume of claims and counterclaims that have piled up around Dr. Gallo since his laboratory published articles in 1984 demonstrating that the human immunodeficiency virus causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Several of Dr. Gallo's most persistent critics, including Suzanne W. Hadley, former chief investigator for the National Institutes of Health, repeated charges that Dr. Gallo stole credit for his AIDS discoveries from the French. She said he was investigated repeatedly and was never "exonerated."

NIH scientist William Hagins, another critic, said Dr. Gallo "comes before you as a great general with a chest covered with medals. The problem is, none of them is for integrity. And others were stolen from other people."

Dr. Gallo, who had to catch a plane to Strasbourg, France, left the hearing before his opponents testified. But in anticipation, he dismissed their complaints as "innuendoes and allegations [resulting from] political intervention in science from people who knew absolutely nothing."

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"It's an obsessed fixation, something unusual, something aberrant and something awful," he said. "No scientific body ever found that I did anything wrong."



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