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Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center Affiliates with The Rockefeller University

The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center for the City of New York, the largest private HIV/AIDS research center in the world, has affiliated with The Rockefeller University, a New York City-based graduate institution specializing in basic biomedical research. The university’s board of trustees voted on the plan at a meeting Thursday, June 13, 1996.

Under the terms of affiliation, the two organizations remain financially independent, but the university provides administrative space for some Diamond Center faculty and staff members as well as infrastructure support for the Diamond Center’s patient-oriented investigations conducted at the Rockefeller University Hospital, a 30-bed facility devoted solely to clinical research.

At a March 20, 1996 meeting, the Rockefeller University board of trustees approved the appointment of David D. Ho, M.D., the scientific director and chief executive officer of the Diamond Center, as a professor at the university. Ho will retain his positions with the Diamond Center and begin his Rockefeller professorship on July 1, 1996. Other Diamond Center scientists are being considered for Rockefeller University faculty appointments.

“The severity of the worldwide AIDS epidemic requires a multidisciplinary approach to HIV/AIDS research. We intend for the affiliation between the Diamond Center and The Rockefeller University to be a productive partnership of highly skilled and talented scientists that might lead to new knowledge, improved therapies for patients and a safe, effective vaccine,” says Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., president of Rockefeller. Wiesel has chaired the Diamond Center board of directors since 1995 and has served as a member since 1993.

Rockefeller University is home to more than 700 scientists. Among the university faculty members’ investigations of HIV/AIDS are projects focused on the spread of the virus within the body from initial infection sites, the immune system’s molecular and cellular signaling processes involved in fighting HIV, the molecular characteristics of HIV replication and the use of therapies for HIV-related wasting syndrome and boosting of the immune system.

Since early 1995, Diamond Center scientists have conducted inpatient and outpatient studies of HIV/AIDS at the Rockefeller University Hospital, including trials of combination therapies for patients ranging from those newly infected with HIV to those with more advanced stages of the disease. Other studies, conducted at the Diamond Center’s laboratories, focus on the factors that influence HIV’s ability to be transmitted, cause disease, replicate and thwart treatments.

“We think that the affiliation between the Aaron Diamond Center for AIDS Research and The Rockefeller University, which is highly regarded for its long tradition of basic research, will encourage a rich cross-fertilization of ideas and fruitful collaborations among the two institutions’ investigators that may yield a greater understanding of HIV and the AIDS disease process and improve therapies for patients infected with the virus,” says Ho.

The Diamond Center began in 1989, when the Aaron Diamond Foundation provided $11 million to create an independent nonprofit HIV/AIDS research corporation. The foundation collaborated with the New York City Department of Health, New York University School of Medicine (NYU) and the Public Health Research Institute to open the Diamond Center in 1991. On Monday, April 15, 1996, the Diamond Center board of directors voted to dissolve its association with NYU.

“The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center for the City of New York looks forward to a most productive and interesting working future with Rockefeller University,” says Irene Diamond, president of the Aaron Diamond Foundation, which she founded with her late husband, Aaron Diamond, a New York City real estate developer. Irene Diamond was a founding member of the Diamond Center and is an ex officio member of its board of directors.

With the affiliation, the Diamond Center’s 50 scientists will continue to occupy a 20,000 square-foot floor of the New York City Bureau of Laboratories building. With the support of the Aaron Diamond Foundation, the Diamond Center renovated the space and built state-of-the-science laboratories, including a 5,000 square-foot Biosafety Level-3 facility, in 1990 and 1991.

Currently, the Diamond Center is renovating an additional 20,000 square feet on an adjacent floor of the building to expand laboratory and administrative capabilities. This renovation project, designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc., of Atlanta and financed by the Aaron Diamond Foundation, will be completed in the fall of 1996 at an estimated cost of $11 million. In addition to the Aaron Diamond Foundation, the Diamond Center has received funding from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Cancer Institute, both part of the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). The Diamond Center has an annual research budget of $6.7 million.

A native of China, Ho attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a bachelor of science degree, summa cum laude, from the California Institute of Technology in 1974 and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1978. Ho completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine in 1981, serving as chief resident in 1982. From 1982 to 1985, he concurrently was a clinical and research fellow in the Infectious Disease Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital and a research fellow in medicine at Harvard. In 1985, he also served as clinical assistant in medicine at Massachusetts General and as instructor in medicine at Harvard.

From 1986 to 1990 he was a physician and research scientist in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Also in 1986, he became assistant professor of medicine in residence at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, becoming an associate professor in 1989. In 1990, Ho became the director of the Diamond Center and professor of medicine and microbiology and co-director of the Center for AIDS Research at NYU, becoming director of the latter in 1994.

Ho has authored more than 110 peer-reviewed articles. He is a member of scientific board of AmFAR and of the president’s National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development and co-chair of the Task Force’s Drug Discovery Subcommittee. Ho also serves on the Committee of 100 (a Chinese American Leadership Organization), the board of the American Bureau for Medical Advancement in China and the NIH Vaccine Working Group.

Ho is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has received the Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine, the Mayor’s (New York City) Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, and the Scientific Award of the Chinese American Medical Society.

Rockefeller’s total research and education budget in fiscal year 1996 was $70 million, including support for HIV/AIDS and related studies from NIH. Private supporters of HIV/AIDS research at the university include The Aaron Diamond Foundation, American Express Foundation, AmFAR, Citicorp, donors to the DirectEffect AIDS Research Program, The Dorothy Schiff Foundation, Harry Winston Research Foundation, Inc., The Irvington Institute for Medical Research, Mellam Family Foundation, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Tebil Foundation, Christopher H. Browne and Frederick Kane Marek.