Looting the Medicine Chest: How MicroGeneSys Sought the Inside Track on an AIDS Drug

By Hines, William | The Progressive, February 1993 | Go to article overview

Looting the Medicine Chest: How MicroGeneSys Sought the Inside Track on an AIDS Drug


Hines, William, The Progressive


How Micro GeneSys sought the inside track on an AIDS drug

In a variation on a Georges Clemenceau theme ("War is too serious a matter to be left to generals") the U.S. Senate pulled on white coat and rubber gloves last fall and moved into the battle against AIDS.

Acting in its closing days, with hardly a dissenting vote, the 102nd Congress adopted a Senate amendment adding $20 million to the Pentagon's appropriation for fiscal 1993, earmarking the sum specifically for large-scale tests of one particular vaccine among several being developed against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The sum involved was trivial - 1/125 of 1 per cent of the $260 billion military budget and 2 per cent of the $1 billion allotted to AIDS research by the National Institutes of Health. But the principle involved was important: Though members of Congress often finance pet projects by tacking last-minute riders onto appropriations bills, this was the first time legislators presumed to usurp medical judgments made by people who had solid scientific credentials.

There is more behind the AIDS amendment than just the usual wrongheadedness of such powerful figures as Democrat Sam Nunn of Georgia and Republican John Warner of Virginia, who introduced it on the Senate floor. They had help and encouragement - lots of it - from an influential ex-Senator turned lobbyist, Democrat Russell Long of Louisiana.

Nunn and Warner, respectively chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in collaboration with Long, former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, brought insider politics to a new flowering, even in a milieu where the term "Congressional ethics" is viewed as an oxymoron.

The AIDS-amendment caper is best understood against the backdrop of a few facts about this troubling disease. From the time it was publicly identified in 1981 through September 30, 1992, acquired immune deficiency syndrome has been diagnosed in 242,146 persons in the United States, of whom 160,372 have died. In addition to the 81,774 still living, there are an estimated one million Americans who are "HIV-positive" - that is, infected with the virus and both susceptible and contagious, but lacking classic AIDS symptoms. From what is known of the virus and its effects, it is reasonable to assume that these infected individuals will progress to actual AIDS, for which there is no cure and no effective medical prevention.

Immunization, along the lines of the now-obsolete smallpox vaccine, would be an obvious answer, and indeed a quest has been under way almost since the causative virus was isolated in the early 1980s. Overly rosy predictions surfaced immediately, beginning with one by Margaret M. Heckler, then Secretary of Health and Human Services and later Ambassador to Ireland, who prophesied at a 1984 press conference that a vaccine would be available within two years. Three years later, Dr. C. Everett Koop, then Surgeon General of the United States, was asked publicly what had happened to Heckler's promised vaccine. "I guess she must have taken it to Ireland with her," he said.

Some palliative progress, but not a cure, has been achieved since then-notably the drug AZT, which got fast-track approval several years ago and is now the mainstay of AIDS therapy for those who have the money to pay for it. The ongoing search for a vaccine has branched, the first path toward a preventive one (which would immunize people not yet exposed to the virus) and the second toward a therapeutic one (which would suppress, reverse, or even eliminate symptoms in infected individuals).

The therapeutic route now seems the more promising and is the focus of lively competition among several gene-splicing companies bearing such science-fictionesque names as Genentech, Chiron, Biocene, and MicroGenesys (pronounced "micro-genesis"). All have come up with genetically engineered candidates - a total, in fact, of sixteen allegedly therapeutic AIDS vaccines, seven of which the National Institutes of Health is evaluating as part of the overall AIDS research program. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Looting the Medicine Chest: How MicroGeneSys Sought the Inside Track on an AIDS Drug
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.