Office of NIH History  
In Their Own Words: NIH Researchers Recall the Early Years of AIDS
 
Audio Transcript
Dr. Jack Whitescarver
 
   
 
Dr. Krause has always been a very strong believer in investigator-initiated research, saying that the breakthroughs come from those novel efforts. That was going to go on whether or not there was any specific AIDS program. People who were interested in getting into AIDS would do it on their own just by sending in meritorious applications without any kind of RFA or RFP. There was early interest in doing some directed research by contract, particularly by those looking for the causative agent. Until one had that, one couldn't really do much of anything as far as therapeutics, without doing it shotgun style. Also, there was early interest in treating the opportunistic infections and in immune modulation. In order to do that, one had to focus on the most frequently observed opportunistic infections, and we did put RFAs out for candidiasis and some of the other rare diseases. In this country, infectious diseases certainly raised their ugly heads when it came to immunocompromised individuals. There were meetings pulled together on that issue as well. This was just to get RFAs out on it.

We were identifying the most obvious things that we needed to know at that point. We needed to find out what was causing it, whether it was an infectious disease, and what the predisposing factors were. We were still investigating whether co-factors predisposed the individual to infection. Another question was what specifically were they dying with? Because we saw that infectious diseases were killing most patients, we decided to attack from that arena, so research in that area made up much of the first targeted efforts.

Interviewer: The records indicate that the first RFA was a joint one between NIAID and NCI. Did the fact that NCI was the first institute to start activity with the RFA create any problems in terms of defining the responsibilities between NIAID and NCI?

Whitescarver: No. The institutes worked together early on, because finances required it. We thought we could do more if we combined our efforts. Jack [Dr. John] Killen was with the Cancer Institute at that time, and I was with the Allergy Institute. We each sent an institute representative on these site visits, and there was cooperation from the very beginning on those early RFAs.

 
     
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