AIDS Panel Chairman Joins Board of Vestar

James D. Watkins, the retired Navy admiral who headed President Reagan’s AIDS commission, has been elected to the board of Vestar, a San Dimas-based bio-pharmaceutical firm.

Vestar, which is developing drug delivery systems for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and AIDS, sought Watkins partly because of his work on the President’s Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus epidemic, according to company executives. The commission last June completed a report that called for an expansion of the laws that protect people with AIDS and HIV-infected persons from discrimination. The commission also concluded that AIDS could be more effectively addressed by overhauling the health-care system.

Members of the presidential study group, wracked by internal squabbling and on the verge of collapse in 1987, have said Watkins was largely responsible for resolving differences and forging commission agreements. Watkins became chairman of the commission in October, 1987, four months after Reagan established the group by appointing members.

Before joining the commission, Watkins was chief of naval operations. He retired from the Navy in 1986. Watkins’ naval career includes stints as commander of the Sixth Fleet and commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet.


Vestar also named John G. Watson executive vice president and chief operating officer. Watson, 44, will be responsible for Vestar’s marketing, manufacturing and business development operations.

Watson was formerly responsible for commercial development at the medical division of American Cyanamid, a company he joined in 1982. Before joining American Cyanamid, Watson was responsible for international pharmaceutical marketing at Johnson & Johnson from 1980 to 1982.