Anthony Fauci: Unfinished business  pg. 5

Anthony Fauci, M.D., leads a discussion during a regular weekly lab meeting at the NIH. Despite his heavy administrative responsibilities, Fauci continues a very active AIDS research program. “He always has time for the people who report to him,” says his longtime colleague and NIAID Clinical Director Clifford Lane, M.D.
Photo by Paul Fetters
Currently Fauci and his colleagues are exploring ways to boost the immune system in patients through the use of natural chemical signals such as interleukin-2.

In 1984, Fauci agreed to take on additional responsibility as NIAID director. “My goal was to have a broader impact on the field, not only of AIDS, but of all the infectious diseases and immunology,” he told the NIH Historical Office in 1989. Impact it, he did. In the past 20 years, the NIAID has grown from the eighth largest at NIH, with a budget of $300 million, to the second largest, after the National Cancer Institute, with a budget of nearly $5 billion.

Including the activists

Fauci’s new position also put him in the cross hairs of public attention. AIDS activists accused the government of ignoring those who were dying of the disease, and branded Fauci—the point man on AIDS for the Reagan administration—as an “incompetent idiot” and a “murderer.”

In 1988, a group of demonstrators stormed the NIH campus, demanding quicker access to experimental drugs. Surveying the protesters, Fauci says he only saw “sick people who were really scared.” Instead of calling in the security guards, he invited the leaders of the group up to his office. “I listened to them, and what they said made absolute, perfect sense,” he says. “And that started a dialogue that led to the inclusion of the activists into many phases of our planning and advisory councils.”

About the same time, Martin Delaney, founding director of Project Inform, an AIDS advocacy organization, invited Fauci to San Francisco to see firsthand the plight of AIDS patients. Some were going blind because they did not meet the strict criteria to be included in clinical studies of an experimental drug that could save their sight. The experience convinced Fauci of the need to allow patients who wouldn’t qualify for a clinical trial because of advanced disease to receive experimental drugs.

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