NIH of the West?

SAN FRANCISCO--The world's second largest AIDS research organization was born today when the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) consolidated its more than 1000 HIV and AIDS researchers into a single institute. Although no offices will be moved, the UCSF AIDS Research Institute will allow the university to synchronize the many separate wings of its AIDS research effort.

Because San Francisco suffered more early AIDS cases than almost any other city, UCSF attracted many of the best AIDS researchers in the country. But too often, AIDS studies and potential therapies were narrowly focused in one area of expertise, such as molecular drug research, and didn't sufficiently address other factors such as patient behavior, says epidemiologist Tom Coates, who will head the new institute. "We felt that the new generation of AIDS questions required crossing these research boundaries," he says.

The new institute--second only to the National Institutes of Health in numbers of AIDS researchers--will coordinate the university's AIDS research in fields such as vaccine research, epidemiology, public health, virology, drug research, patient behavior, and medical ethics, Coates says. One question the institute will investigate is why HIV reappears in more than 50% of patients who are taking protease inhibitor therapy. UCSF researchers will collaborate to see whether the relapse is due to the emergence of resistant strains, patients' not taking drugs, or some combination.