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Nabel to Head AIDS Vaccine Institute

A long-leaderless AIDS vaccine research institute has finally found a director. After an 18-month search, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will name University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, molecular biologist Gary Nabel as the first chief of the high-profile new center, ScienceNow has learned. The announcement could come as early as tomorrow.

In May 1997, President Bill Clinton announced creation of the new Vaccine Research Center with much fanfare (Science, 23 May 1997, p. 1184). He said the center, now being built on NIH's suburban Washington, D.C., campus, would spearhead efforts to develop, within a decade, a vaccine to prevent people from acquiring the HIV virus. While planning for the center forged ahead, however, NIH administrators had difficulty recruiting a director, with several candidates falling victim to bureaucratic infighting. The delay prompted criticism from some AIDS activists, who said the Administration wasn't following though on its plans.

Early this year, however, word leaked that Nabel had emerged as the leading candidate for the job. The news rankled some vaccine researchers, who noted that while he is a noted authority on using gene therapy to fight AIDS, he is a relative newcomer to vaccine research. Still, Nabel's selection is "a super choice," believes AIDS researcher Ashley Haase of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Nable "may be relatively new to the [vaccine] game," he says, "but he'll bring a fresh perspective and get plenty of support" from veterans in the field.