Life Sciences at CHF
Dec 9, 2015 · 21 min read

In 1944, near the end of World War II, an eighteen-year-old University of Geneva biology student stormed out of a local cinema, horrified by newsreels that showed Allied troops entering Nazi concentration camps. “I was shocked out of my wits,” she later said. “I cried for a week.”

The Holocaust footage and the complacency of her parents — who, like many in Europe, dismissed the horrific scenes as propaganda — made a lasting impression. Mathilde Galland resolved “never to tolerate injustice and to speak up whenever I saw it.”

The biology student went on to become an immunologist. In the early 1980s, she was conducting research on interferon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City when she became aware of what she considered another intolerable injustice.

Homosexual men in the city were dying at an alarming rate from a mysterious illness that destroyed their immune systems. The cause was unknown but presumed to be a virus. Krim learned that funding for research on the disease was severely lacking. She also perceived callousness on the part of government agencies, health care providers, and the general public toward patients suffering from it. She spoke up.


Mathilde Galland was born July 9, 1926 in Como, Italy, to a Swiss father and an Austrian mother. She was the eldest of four children in a family that spoke German and stood out, she has said, as “Protestants in a sea of Catholics.” When she was six, the family moved to French-speaking Geneva to escape the great worldwide economic depression, which struck Italy particularly hard.

The young girl struggled to belong. At home she spoke Italian and German; at school, classmates teased her for speaking French with a distinctly non-Swiss accent. She grew up feeling ostracized and, perhaps in reaction, developed a strong sense of independence and self-sufficiency.

Then, during her first year as a student at the University of Geneva, she saw the Holocaust newsreel. It turned out to be a life-shaping event. Mathilde asked her parents if they knew of the atrocities. “They said they were just stories, and that I shouldn’t take it so hard,” she later recalled. “It was the shock of my life, really. I decided I was going to find out what had really happened.”

Zionism

She read voraciously about the Nazi regime and the “final solution,” and enrolled in courses on the history of Judaism. When she went on to graduate studies in genetics at the university, she befriended Jewish students at the medical school and fell in love with one of them. David Danon was a Bulgarian, and a member of the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary group led by Menachem Begin that was moving refugees and arms to Palestine. (Two decades later, Begin became the Israeli prime minister.) On at least one occasion, Mathilde aided the Zionist cause by smuggling guns across the French-Swiss border on her bicycle. To the dismay of her parents (whom she has described as “mildly anti-Semitic”), she converted to Judaism.

At the university, she worked in the laboratory of invertebrate embryologist Émile Guyénot. She studied the chromosomes of mollusks with a new tool, the electron microscope, and displayed promise as an experimentalist. In 1953, she took a PhD in genetics, married Danon, and moved to Israel. Her family disowned her.

Danon served as a physician in the Israeli Air Force, and Mathilde’s expertise in electron microscopy qualified her for a position as a research assistant at the new Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. She worked with a team that refined methods of amniocentesis and prenatal determination of sex.

She soon became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1955. By that time Mathilde was settled and happy in Israel, so she decided to stay. She managed well as a single mother. “I was doing something interesting. I had wonderful daycare for my daughter. I had a good job and a house. Who needed a husband?” she recalled.

Two years later, Mathilde was asked to escort a trustee, American lawyer and Hollywood executive Arthur Krim, on a tour of the institute. The two became friends, wrote letters, and began a long-distance romantic relationship. They married in 1959. The new Mrs. Krim moved to New York, gave up science, and assumed the role of high-society hostess, but after several months of soirees, benefits, and political functions she found herself “bored to tears.”


Arthur Krim

Arthur Krim (right) with JFK
credit: Abbie Rowe; White House Photographs; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Entertainment attorney Arthur Krim was chairman of United Artists from 1951 to 1978. During his tenure, the studio produced Academy Award winners Rocky, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Annie Hall. Krim was also active in national politics. He was an advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. He also served as chairman of the Democratic National Finance Committee from 1966 to 1968.


She returned to work in biomedical science. She accepted a position at Weill Cornell Medical College on New York’s Upper West Side and soon moved across the street to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she took up research on cancer-causing viruses. Within a few years, she was well known in the field.

In the late 1960s, she was appointed to a congressional cancer advisory board. While preparing a report for the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee, she became intrigued by papers on an immune protein, a cytokine, that seemed to help cells resist viruses.

Arthur Krim later remembered the moment when it first caught his wife’s attention. They were sitting together at home when she suddenly announced, “I’ve just read what is absolutely the most exciting thing I’ve read in years.”

Interferon

In 1957, Alick Isaacs and Jean Lindenmann, investigators at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, noticed that cells infected by one virus often became resistant to others. Eventually, they showed that the phenomenon is associated with a secreted protein, which they called interferon.

Only a few labs studied the molecule, because it was difficult to isolate and purify. Supplies were short and variable in quality, which made it difficult to replicate experiments. Interferon scientists gained, as journalist Robert Teitelman put it, “a slightly fishy reputation for chasing an illusory panacea.” Naysayers called the substance “imaginon.”

Meanwhile, immunotherapy was emerging as a new approach to cancer treatment.

Since viruses can cause certain types of cancer, some researchers thought interferon held promise as an anti-tumor drug. And because it is a natural product of the immune system, they hoped it would become a gentler alternative to conventional “slash, burn, and poison” treatments — surgery, radiation, and chemotherapies.

Krim became a believer, but interferon was scarce and costly to produce, and little funding was available for research on the molecule. She went to work and began soliciting support from people with money and influence. Between 1975 and 1985, she headed Sloan-Kettering’s interferon research program and coauthored more than thirty papers in the area.

She displayed an unusual knack for administration and advocacy. In 1975, Krim convinced the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to sponsor an international conference on interferon at Rockefeller University. It was a pivotal event in the history of medicine. Krim invited dozens of prominent scientists, NIH officials, philanthropists, representatives of industry, and perhaps most important of all, the press and media.

Finnish virologist Kari Cantell, a leading figure in interferon research, was on the invitation list. He had devised a method for boosting the production of interferon in leukocytes (white blood cells). Initially, he was reluctant to attend the conference, but he eventually gave in to Krim’s persistent letters and phone calls.

In his autobiography, Cantell described how “considerable suspicion and criticism” of Krim’s growing power surfaced at the meeting. “Perhaps,” he wrote, “it was due to the strong influence she had on the way in which federal money was allocated to research, and this was perceived as a threat by the biomedical establishment…. Perhaps her character, wealth, political connections and gender played a role, or it seemed she had more enthusiasm than critical judgment or expertise.”

Krim’s detractors referred to her as the “interferon queen,” and accused her of letting her heart rule her head. At the Rockefeller conference, they were perturbed by her “promotion of interferon as a cancer cure.”

Although controversial, Krim’s methods were highly effective. Media coverage of the conference raised public awareness of interferon as a potentially powerful therapeutic agent, and some scientific skeptics were swayed by new data reported at the meeting, or perhaps the infectious enthusiasm of participants, or both. NCI director Frank Rauscher became a convert. He agreed to commit $1 million to the cause.

The meeting also stirred Mary Lasker, a respected and influential philanthropist and faithful donor to the NCI. Lasker steered funding priorities through service on advisory councils that oversaw decisions on grant awards and research agendas. She was drawn to interferon partly because she had a close friend with breast cancer who was not responding to conventional therapies.

After the conference, the Lasker Foundation purchased $1 million worth of interferon for Jordan Gutterman’s immunotherapy studies at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. On the heels of that donation, Gutterman successfully pressed the American Cancer Society (ACS) for an additional $2 million. It was the largest grant in ACS history. By the early 1980s, stories on “interferon, the miracle drug” were making headlines in national periodicals and filling lead slots on network news broadcasts.

In the end, interferon didn’t live up to the hype that Krim and others generated around it, but it is still used to treat serious chronic illnesses — hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, melanoma, and blood cancers, for example — typically in conjunction with other drugs. Interferon continues to help doctors and patients fight disease.

The impacts of Krim’s promotional work were similarly long lasting. By attracting mass media to scientific meetings, she was able to garner public support and money for research that major funding agencies had ignored. She pioneered a new approach to advancing biomedical science, and soon applied lessons from the interferon experience to a special problem in virology.


Miracle Cure?

Interferon did not become the wonder drug that many had hoped for. Molecular immunologists discovered in the late 1970s that it comes in many varieties, each with distinctive properties. In the early 1980s, clinical researchers established that alpha interferon displays significant anti-cancer activity, but they also learned that it is quickly degraded in vivo, and that treatments therefore require high doses, which cause fevers, nausea, and other unpleasant side effects. Still, the idea that interferon could cure cancer was not wholly unfounded — use of alpha interferon as a monotherapy produced complete remissions in 5–10 percent of hairy cell leukemia cases.


HIV/AIDS

In early 1981, Krim received an unexpected call from Joseph Sonnabend, a South African physician and researcher who was living and working in United States. He had studied the biochemistry of interferon as a postdoc in London with Alick Isaacs, codiscoverer of the molecule, before moving to New York in 1970 to join the faculty of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Eventually, he lost his grant funding and lab space, gave up research, and opened a private practice in Greenwich Village to treat sexually transmitted diseases. He also volunteered at the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic. In March 1981, he was puzzled by a case of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of skin cancer, in a young male patient referred to him by the clinic.

He contacted New York University dermatologist Alvin Friedman Kien who confirmed more than twenty recently diagnosed cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the city, in previously healthy men. The average incidence was three-to-five per year, in elderly persons, immunosuppressed organ transplant recipients, or others with severely weakened immune systems. “Twenty was an astonishing number,” said Sonnabend, “quite unreal.” And soon more patients soon began turning up at his office with swollen lymph glands, subliminal fevers, and telltale purple lesions.

Sonnabend conferred with medical colleagues. They were baffled by the illness, but “didn’t think it was urgent to get the word out.” He then contacted NYU virologist Jan Vilcek, an acquaintance from his time in interferon research, to ask for research assistance. Vilcek allowed him to spend some time in his laboratory. Sonnabend called Krim, too, and voiced his concern about his patients. “They have some infection, but I can’t help them,” he told her. “I’ve tried every antibiotic I can think of and I can’t make them better.”

Krim in turn called Bijan Safai, the head of dermatology at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital and learned that he had recently diagnosed similarly mystifying cases — twelve in all. The hospital had seen only nine cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the previous twenty-five years. Krim remembered Safai’s comment about the patients, “‘They are a little special, you know. They are all gays.’”

Rumors of a “gay cancer” began to circulate. The first published report on the phenomenon appeared in the New York Native, a bi-weekly newspaper for the city’s gay community, on May 18, 1981. On June 5, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that five homosexual men in Los Angeles had been treated for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), another illness previously found almost exclusively in seniors and immunocompromised persons, and on July 3, the New York Times ran an article on the Kaposi’s sarcoma cases. The headline read “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” There was no suggestion of contagion.

By mid-1982, the CDC had tracked hundreds of cases of opportunistic infections in otherwise healthy individuals between the ages of fifteen and sixty. The vast majority were homosexuals. Public health authorities and the press latched onto the term “gay-related immune deficiency” (GRID), but epidemiologists soon recognized that hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and Haitian immigrants, male and female, were exhibiting symptoms. The spread of the illness strongly suggested an infectious agent transmitted by blood and sexual contact. By September, the CDC had officially adopted the name “acquired immune deficiency syndrome,” or AIDS.

In early 1983, the scientific community was approaching consensus on the likely cause of the illness: a human retrovirus, probably belonging to the family of human T-cell lymphotropic viruses (HTLV). Robert C. Gallo at the NIH and Luc Montagnier at the Institut Pasteur in Paris were leading the search. In the spring, Montagnier’s group announced the isolation of a new retrovirus from the blood of an AIDS patient. It was unrelated to HTLV.

Later in the year, Gallo’s laboratory duplicated the finding, and developed a screening test for detecting the presence of the new virus in serum. For a host of reasons, including the ubiquity of the virus in cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, PCP, and other opportunistic infections, many researchers believed that the causal pathogen had been identified. It was later named human immunodeficiency virus — HIV.

The AIDS Medical Foundation

From the beginning, Krim sensed a coming public health crisis. “You could predict it,” she later told the Los Angeles Times. “We were dealing with something that was incurable, lethal, and unpreventable, and seemed to be sexually transmitted.”

William Haseltine, a virologist at the Harvard Medical School, shared her view, which the medical community was slow to endorse. Haseltine describes the nonchalance of leading medical institutions: “As soon as we knew it was a retrovirus, I knew it would become a global pandemic, but the deans of ten major medical schools said, ‘This will never be a major problem.’ That was the attitude.”

Beyond the CDC, the reaction of the federal government was sluggish. As the epidemic spread, the Reagan administration sought to curtail federal spending and deliver on promises to balance the budget. The president repeatedly proposed reductions in federal support for biomedical research.

In each instance, Congress made full or partial restorations, but for several years, strong downward pressure was exerted on research budgets. Little money was made available to support AIDS research. From Krim’s point of view, it was a grossly inadequate response to a grave public health crisis.

She asked private foundations to fund research in her lab, but found that AIDS provoked fear rather than compassion. The cause was unpopular. She expressed deep disappointment in the indifference and lack of charity displayed by the general public and leading social institutions concerning the plight of AIDS patients.

The prevalent attitude, she later explained, was that the disease “resulted from a sleazy lifestyle, drugs, or kinky sex, and that certain people had learned their lesson and it served them right. That was the attitude, even on the part of respectable foundations that are supposed to be concerned about human welfare.”

Krim responded characteristically to what she considered unconscionable prejudice and discrimination: she took it up as a personal cause. With Sonnabend’s help and $100,000 of her own money, she launched the AIDS Medical Foundation (AMF) in April 1983, in the storage room of her husband’s midtown offices.

The group started off “very spit and sawdust,” recalled Sally Morrison, a former staff member. “We didn’t have any equipment. We were in this tiny little cramped space. The mail guy was scared to come up to our office because it said ‘AIDS’ on our envelopes. It was crazy times then.”

The plan was to fund basic research on the virus. William Haseltine joined the new foundation’s scientific advisory committee, and urged Krim to dole out small grants quickly in order to lure scientists into AIDS research. He remembered telling her, “You help us raise the money, and we’ll give it to scientists to hire postdocs to work on any idea at all, as long as the scientist is good. We’ve got to get good people into this field. Money will motivate them. Nothing else will.”

Krim wanted to send checks directly to principal investigators as quickly as possible. Scientists who submitted grant applications to the NIH often waited a year or more to receive funds. The scrappy foundation intended to turn around application reviews and issue grant monies within a few months.

The founding director and chairperson worked tirelessly, according to an early AMF associate who remembers that “she opened her expansive Rolodex and dialed away. She would call up people she knew and harangue them till they gave money. She was unstoppable.” Krim worked to recast AIDS research as a cause that politicians, corporations, and private foundations could support without reservation.

She enjoyed great success attracting attention and money, but on occasion, as had been the case with interferon, her tactics sparked controversy and dissent. One of the foundation’s strategic campaigns — what critics called the “invention” of heterosexual AIDS — precipitated Sonnabend’s departure from the organization.

In the spring of 1985, AMF publicist Terry Beirn mounted a press campaign to challenge the widely held belief that AIDS was a “gay” disease. Physician and virologist Robert Redfield of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center had recently documented heterosexual transmission of the virus, a finding that provided empirical support for the message the foundation wanted to send: “AIDS does not discriminate.” But to accentuate the point, Beirn’s communications suggested that the spread of HIV/AIDS was on the verge of becoming an epidemic among heterosexuals.

Media outlets around the world picked up on the story. The cover of the July 1985 issue of Life Magazine loudly announced, “Now No One is Safe from AIDS.” Sonnabend was furious when he learned that the claim had come from the AMF. He objected that there was no evidence to support it, and predicted that it would “freak out” heterosexuals and promote violence against gay men. He resigned his position at the foundation and refocused his energies on organizing community-based AIDS drug trials.

Sonnabend was not alone in his opposition to the publicity campaign. Even Redfield was disconcerted by the potency of the story. He had been interviewed for the Life Magazine article, and was dismayed by its tone. He considered it fear-mongering. He later derided the “public relations decision that framed ‘AIDS’ as an equal-opportunity sex disease in the mind of the generally uninterested, easily-frightened, happy-to-be-manipulated American public.”

For her part, Krim “did not believe for one minute that the disease would stay confined to homosexuals,” even though transmission of the virus was poorly understood. Years later, Sonnabend conceded that the tactic was shrewd and undeniably effective. “Once Beirn put out this scare, the money started to flow,” he said. “All of a sudden, AIDS was a very fundable project.” Today, the reality of the disease remains complicated. Only 25 percent of documented AIDS cases in the United States occur in heterosexuals. In sub-Saharan Africa, where two million new cases are identified annually, the vast majority of infections result from unprotected heterosexual sex.

As the heterosexual AIDS flap blew up, Krim closed her laboratory and left Sloan-Kettering to devote herself to the AIDS crusade on a full-time basis. Her involvement with interferon, her unorthodox fundraising schemes, and her penchant for courting media attention had prompted many colleagues in the biomedical research community to question her seriousness of scientific purpose. Her exposure as the world’s leading champion of AIDS research had further diminished her professional standing.

Eventually, her superiors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering grew weary of her extracurricular capers. “I was told very clearly that I should tone down my visibility,” she later said. Running the AMF had negatively affected her scientific productivity. Biomedical research is a highly competitive field; Krim found that she couldn’t keep up. “Most of my colleagues,” she explained, “are men who have wives who do everything at home. If I have to give a dinner for a hundred people and be all dressed up and have my hair done, I can’t concentrate completely on my work.”

In the end, Krim concluded that she could make a greater contribution to medicine and public health by “reaching out to people…who have the means to help.”

AmfAR

In June of 1984, movie star Rock Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS. Because of the stigma attached to the disease, his condition remained a closely guarded secret. A year later, the infection had taken its toll; it was no longer possible to conceal the illness. Hudson’s publicist, Dale Olson, told the press that the actor was suffering from liver cancer.

In July of 1985, Hudson traveled to Paris for treatment. He collapsed and was hospitalized. The hospital informed the media that the patient did not have inoperable cancer, and Olson final admitted that Hudson was suffering from AIDS. Hudson returned to Los Angeles and died in October. His passing marked a turning point in public awareness of the disease and perceptions of its victims.

Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, one of Hudson’s closest friends, was deeply affected by his illness and death. “I was made so aware of this huge, loud silence regarding AIDS that I finally thought to myself… do something yourself,” she said at the time. She understood that her celebrity could be useful. “If I or any other celebrity can help, then we should do everything we can.”

With her own money, Taylor established the National AIDS Research Foundation in 1985 in Los Angeles. Krim learned of the foundation, called Taylor on the telephone, and invited her to join AmfAR’s board of directors. “To our delight,” Krim later wrote, “she accepted — eagerly, in fact.” Taylor invited Krim to Hollywood to discuss joining forces.

In September 1985, Krim’s organization merged with Taylor’s to become the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or AmfAR. The new foundation combined two missions: to support basic biomedical and clinical research to fight HIV and AIDS; and to engage in social, legal, and economic advocacy on behalf of those affected by the epidemic.

Elizabeth Taylor promoting the cause

According to former staffer Morrison, Mathilde was “all about the science,” and Elizabeth was “always about compassion and support and taking care of patients. Between the two, that was a very powerful package.” Morrison added that they shared a strong spirit of activism and impatience with red tape.

During its first few years, AmfAR consistently increased spending on research grants. The foundation opened offices in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Rockville, Maryland, in addition to its New York headquarters, but still managed to devote 50 percent of revenues to research, a figure topped by only the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the RP (retinitis pigmentosa) Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Elizabeth Taylor lent celebrity to the project; Mathilda Krim brought elegance, and pluck. Jeffrey Laurence, an oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, and an early scientific consultant to the foundation described her as “a very gentle, very sophisticated, wealthy, incredibly well-dressed grandmother who could go out and say things to senators and congressmen and wealthy people that the rest of us could not.”

The New York Times said of Krim, “As much as anyone, she has made raising money to fight AIDS not only respectable but fashionable.” But she still wasn’t inclined to steer clear of controversy. She made frequent statements, gave interviews, and appeared on television to promote policies, practices, and causes that were, for Americans in the 1980s, unpopular, disorienting, and uncomfortable to address.

She advocated safe sex and the use of condoms. She promoted the use of disposable hypodermic needles as a means of inhibiting the spread of HIV among drug addicts, and she championed the gay rights movement.

In 1986, Krim made headlines and enemies in the scientific community when she protested strenuously and loudly about protocols in clinical trials of AZT, the first drug developed as a treatment for AIDS. Control groups in the double-blind trials were receiving placebos. Krim considered the practice disgraceful. She argued that in cases of fatal diseases such as AIDS, patients should have access to experimental drugs.

After AZT was approved for sale in 1987, she complained about its cost. Patients paid about $1.75 per capsule. Industry analysts estimated that capsules cost the manufacturer, Burroughs Wellcome, between thirty and fifty cents to produce. Krim maintained that the actual cost was somewhere between seven and fifteen cents.

Stirring up trouble in the biomedical establishment came naturally to her, but she made friends, too, by doling out research grants. AmfAR provided support when NIH funding was scarce, and it was willing to fund projects that government agencies deemed too risky.

The foundation’s early efforts contributed significantly to the understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS, partly because the foundation eschewed scientific convention and conducted multidisciplinary grant reviews.

Today, cross-disciplinary communication is widely recognized as a fount of innovation, but not in the 1980s. Grant review committees at government agencies and private foundations were organized along disciplinary lines: virologists, for example, reviewed only virology applications, epidemiologists reviewed only epidemiology applications, and rarely, if ever, did specialists in the two fields consult with each other.

According to Jeffrey Laurence, interdisciplinary crosstalk was a central feature of AmfAR’s alternative model: “We had a huge scientific advisory committee because we didn’t know where the best ideas would come from. We had social scientists sitting with epidemiologists, sitting with public health people, and virologists, molecular biologists, and immunologists all in one huge hotel room, a banquet room, and we’d evaluate all of the proposals.”

AmfAR funded research that led to breakthroughs in the fight against AIDS. In 1986, Nancy Chang of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston received a grant to investigate the properties of HIV protease. She established that the enzyme was crucial for viral infectivity. Her findings prompted lines of research that led to the development of protease inhibitors, drugs that were introduced to treat AIDS in the mid-1990s. For many patients, protease inhibitors transformed the disease from a death sentence into a manageable chronic illness.

In 1987, Ruth Ruprecht of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston received funding to test the effects of antiviral compounds on mother-to-fetus retroviral transmission in a mouse model. That investigation served as a pretext for an NIH-funded clinical trial in 1994, which showed that treatment with AZT reduced transmission of the virus to newborns from HIV-positive mothers by 60 percent. Further developments led to the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission in the developed world.

A Cure

In the mid-1990s, AmfAR began to struggle financially, as did many non-profit organizations dedicated to HIV/AIDS causes. Medical progress had begun to blunt the public’s sense of urgency. Daniel Wolfe of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a Manhattan-based advocacy group, told New York Magazine that many of its donors had grown “tired of hearing about AIDS.” They were “ready to throw money at the next disease.” For the press, too, the novelty of AIDS stories had worn off.

By 1995, AmfAR faced a $4 million deficit. The foundation slashed its $20 million annual budget by 25 percent, closed one of its offices, and let go nearly a third of its staff. The foundation’s two matriarchs had been forced to withdraw from fundraising efforts. Taylor’s failing health restricted her involvement (and there were reports, denied by AmfAR, that her relations with key foundation personnel had become strained). Krim’s participation had been affected by her husband’s illness, and his eventual death in 1994. “While Arthur was sick,” she explained, “I was unable to travel or schmooze.”

Krim returned in 1995 to pull the effort back together. Sharon Stone was named the foundation’s new chairperson, and former March of Dimes executive Jerry Radwin was hired to stabilize the organization as it regrouped. The following year, Krim stated emphatically that she was determined to see AmfAR through its hard times:

“You know, I’m an old lady now. Sometimes I look out on my garden and think, maybe I should stop and spend some time on the flowers. But I look and see the destruction AIDS has caused, the young, vital people it has killed, and I know I cannot stop.”

The foundation survived and now thrives. In 2012, AmfAR’s revenues exceeded $30 million. More than two-thirds of those dollars were used to fund programming in basic research, clinical research, epidemiological studies, drug and vaccine development, prevention, education, and patient advocacy.

AmfAR remains largely research-focused. To date, it has dedicated $325 million to HIV/AIDS research projects conducted by more than 2,000 researchers around the world. Many have delivered breakthrough scientific discoveries and medical advances. In 2010, the foundation organized a research consortium to search for a cure.

And until that goal is achieved, Krim promises that AmfAR will remain true to the ethical ideal that has inspired all of her causes. “We want to continue believing and teaching that each human life has the same value as any other.”


– article by Esther Landhuis and Mark Jones

To see more stories like this, visit us at biotechhistory.org

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