Robert C. Gallo, a preeminent AIDS researcher, has entered "serious, substantial" negotiations to leave the National Cancer Institute and establish an international center for AIDS research at a major university.
Gallo said that he wants to establish "the world's foremost institute of human virology" and that several leading scientists at the federal cancer agency, part of the National Institutes of Health, and at other institutions have expressed an interest in joining him.
Gallo's National Institutes of Health laboratory has been a magnet for many of the world's most talented acquired immune deficiency syndrome and cancer researchers, and his departure would be a blow to the organization.
Johns Hopkins University has emerged as the most likely location for the new center, but Gallo has also had extensive discussions with Duke and Yale universities.
National Institutes of Health officials have tried to discourage Gallo from leaving, and he was scheduled to discuss his plans at a dinner meeting Monday night with Director James B. Wyngaarden.
"Bob Gallo is the single most active and productive and creative person in AIDS research," Wyngaarden said Monday in an interview. "I'd hate to see him go. We are not in a felicitous phase for any kind of upheaval. But in the long run, what can we do"?