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Boston Technology Business Owner Makes $100 Million Donation to HIV/AIDS Vaccine Research

February 4, 2009

Phillip Ragon, founder of the database software company InterSystems, has made a $100 million dollar donation to create a Boston-based institute for HIV/AIDS vaccine research, the Boston Globe reports. The donation of $10 million annually for the next 10 years will be directed to Massachusetts General Hospital and shared with other institutions -- such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- in an effort to bring physicians, engineers and biologists together under one institute, according to the Globe. The new institute -- named Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon Institute -- will be modeled after the Broad Institute and will bring together specialists who might not otherwise collaborate. Researcher Bruce Walker of Massachusetts General and Harvard will oversee the institute.

According to Ragon, the institute will allow researchers to shift their focus from obtaining grants to concentrating on ideas that might be dismissed by certain donors. Ragon added that in today's research arena, "you need projects where large groups of people come together to focus on advancing the state of science." The Globe reports that HIV/AIDS vaccine research has proved to be the "single greatest goal" and "most daunting failure" for scientists. Many leaders in the field expect the new institute to jumpstart the vaccine research initiative. Anthony Fauci -- director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- said, "This is exactly what the field needs," adding that researchers from MIT will bring a different perspective to the initiative. MIT scientist Arup Chakraborty said the challenge of developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine was a "problem that MIT couldn't walk away from." Dan Barouch of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who will be working with the institute, said, "The scientific challenges associated with making a safe and effective HIV vaccine are unprecedented." Although the institute was created to focus initially on HIV/AIDS vaccine research, its overall mission is to employ the immune system to prevent and cure diseases, the Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 2/4).

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