UM medical school gets Gallo institute

Move is less physical than organizational

January 17, 2007|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,sun reporter

A decade after state leaders recruited AIDS researcher Dr. Robert C. Gallo to Baltimore, his virology institute is moving to the University of Maryland Medical School.

The change, announced yesterday, is more organizational than physical, with the Institute of Human Virology staying in the same modern facility on West Lombard Street where it has been since its establishment in 1996.

But with the signing of a memorandum of understanding last week, the IHV is no longer a part of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute - a multipronged entity with research centers in Rockville, College Park and Baltimore.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, the medical school dean, said the change will help foster collaborations between institute researchers and scientists in other medical school departments and specialty centers. Among them are researchers in vaccine development, biodefense, infectious diseases, microbiology and immunology.

"The ability to interact, to integrate science, to collaborate on a number of issues is, to be honest, incredible," said Reece, who took office in September. "The way science is going and the way I'm promoting it is to be interdisciplinary."

The IHV becomes the medical school's first full-fledged institute - a place where scientists from different disciplines and departments work on common problems with major outside funding. The IHV brings more than $28 million in research funding to the medical school's $350 million research enterprise, a spokesman said.

Since its founding, the Institute of Human Virology has grown from its original cast of fewer than a dozen employees to more than 300 - growth that Gallo says has brought the center to where it has outgrown its space. With an annual budget of more than $50 million, the institute seeks answers to HIV infection and other viral diseases including hepatitis C, herpes and certain types of cancer.

Gallo said the move doesn't solve the space crunch but should solve a long-standing problem of duplication.

Often, he said, IHV has fallen under the administrative yokes of the biotechnology institute and the medical school where many of its researchers hold faculty positions.

"There was way too much administration, too many signoffs," Gallo said. "Now, there's simpler administration, no duplication. I think this draws us more into the university."

jonathan.bor@baltsun.com

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