CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

"Sarah?"

Sam's voice on the intercom interrupts Sarah's train of thought as she's typing on her computer. She punches a button on the phone.

"Yes, Sam?"

"Sarah, come into my office."

"Sam, I've got a deadline."

"Screw the deadline. I'll take care of that. You need to see this."

Sarah makes sure she saved her work and then pushes back her chair and walks the length of the room to Sam's private office. When she enters, Sam is glued to his little ten-inch TV screen. He motions to Sarah to be quiet and points to a chair he has already set up so she can watch, too.

Anchorwoman Laura Begley is on camera, summarizing the AIDS trial and the events of the last week. Sam explains what's happened so far.

"GNN's doing a special on the trial, and from what I hear, there's going to be stuff you'll want to see."

His voice gives way to Laura's.

"...which brings us up to the present, and it was another day of unexpected testimony, to put it mildly. With us again is Dr. Frank Keating, chief health correspondent for GNN. Dr. Keating, I guess we shouldn't be surprised any more with what's coming out in this trial."

Keating and Laura are once again together in the same camera shot, but it is a different setting than the usual news desk. Both are standing, and in between them is a giant green screen where images will soon appear. Right now, it's just the GNN logo and the special graphics developed for the AIDS Trial.

"Probably not, Laura. The past week has been one bombshell after another, all of which bode poorly for the defense. The plaintiffs' attorney, Benjamin Messick, so far has made a number of startling revelations, all of which seem to be supported with documentary evidence. But one of the most interesting developments is that Messick has made the personality of Dr. Robert Gallo a central issue in this trial. So we decided we'd see what we could find out about Dr. Gallo, his record and his life."

Keating now turns away from Laura and faces the camera directly, which then tightens on Keating, and Laura disappears from the screen.

"What we discovered was, well, as shocking as the rest of the trial has been, to say the least..."

As Keating talks, still shots, video clips, a birth certificate, and copies of newspaper headlines and magazine articles fill the green screen behind him.

"Robert Gallo was born in 1937 in Waterbury, Connecticut. His father was apparently a workaholic who owned a successful company. At the age of 11, Gallo's younger sister, Judith, was stricken with leukemia. Thirty years later, Dr. Gallo would be dedicating his life to finding a virus that caused this deadly cancer."

There's a picture of Gallo and Judith together, probably taken sometime in the mid-40's, looking like any normal brother and sister.

"But, prior to her death, several other things happened as a result of Judith's illness that would shape Robert Gallo's future. He would spend weeks living with relatives while his parents traveled to various hospitals with his sister. Then, after Judith's death, his father was obsessed with visiting her grave, walking from room to room in their house, holding and kissing her pictures, and forbidding any show of happiness in the family. It's clear there was no love or attention left for Robert when his sister was gone."

Keating disappears from the TV and a photograph of Gallo and his father, neither of whom looks very happy, fills the screen.

"At an annual memorial service six years after Judith's death, a tormented Robert stood up and shouted at his father, 'When will this end?' Later Dr. Gallo would recall seeing his sister for the last time, describing her as, quote, a ghost, a concentration camp victim, unquote."

Keating's really done his homework, Sarah realizes.

"After graduating from Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Gallo discovered that he couldn't bear to be around sick people, and found his niche instead in the research lab, going to work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland...."

Newspaper clippings, headlines announcing his promotions, and views of the outside of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute capture Sarah's attention while Keating continues.

"Thanks to President Nixon's declared 'War on Cancer,' it didn't take long for an ambitious Robert Gallo to rise to the top as head of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology at the National Cancer Institute. And then it took less than ten years before he was in serious trouble."

Keating reappears with the green screen behind him. What the viewers see, however, is the graphic GALLO: Saint or Sinner? projected onto the green screen.

"In 1974 an investigative panel of university scientists found Dr. Gallo's lab to be one of the worst offenders in the scandalous abuse of federal funds for cancer research."

Newspaper headlines are superimposed over the bottom half of Keating as he talks.

"Two of his cohorts were later found guilty of embezzlement and taking secret gratuities."

Then it's just Keating again.

"In the midst of all this, Gallo needed a miracle, and just one year later he announced the discovery of the first identified human retrovirus, which he called Hl20V, and said it caused leukemia. When other scientists requested samples of his virus to test his claims, he at least on one occasion ordered his subordinates to damage the infected cells before sending them out, to make them useless for research."

More newspaper headlines, this time on the green screen behind him.

"Finally, despite all the obstacles, it was discovered that Hl20V was a mistake, a contamination in Gallo's lab, a mixture of different retroviruses from various monkeys. The virus didn't actually exist. The joke going around was that Gallo's 'human tumor virus' was actually a 'human rumor virus.' Gallo initially tried to save his reputation, suggesting that human leukemia must be caused by one of these monkey viruses, but later retracted his claims, to his shame and dismay."

My god, Sarah thinks. "Sam, GNN wouldn't let Keating say all this if it weren't true, would they?"

Sam didn't answer, intent on listening to Keating.

"But five years later Dr. Gallo is at it again, claiming the discovery of another human retrovirus he called HTLV-1, which he blamed for causing leukemia in blacks from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, he couldn't find the virus in American leukemia patients. And prior to Dr. Gallo's discovery of HTLV-1, a Japanese research team had also found a retrovirus in some Japanese leukemia patients, and they had sent their virus to Dr. Gallo for peer review. When Gallo published the genetic sequence of his own HTLV-1, it turned out to be identical to the Japanese virus, including a deliberate error intentionally planted by the Japanese research team, just in case someone tried to steal their discovery. Although it was clear that Dr. Gallo had indeed stolen the Japanese virus and claimed it as his own, no formal charges were ever brought. Instead, Dr. Gallo was awarded the prestigious Lasker Prize as the discoverer of HTLV-1."

"Sam, do you think he's got proof of all this?" Sam motions for Sarah to be quiet.

"But as a scientist who worked in Gallo's lab once put it, quote, Gallo was known for this sort of unscrupulous behavior years before the AIDS virus ever came along, unquote. Perhaps the Japanese never pressed the issue because it turns out that this HTLV virus, pronounced by Gallo to be the cause of leukemia, is currently estimated to cause cancer in humans only once in every 2000 years. But thanks to the silence of the Japanese, Robert Gallo finally had a virus he could call his own, and if it didn't cause leukemia, he simply had to find a disease it did cause and he'd be famous."

As Sarah realizes what's coming, the nausea returns. She's not sure she wants to see the rest, but knows she can't leave. Sam wouldn't understand.

"He first tried to suggest HTLV-1 as a possible cause of such odd diseases as Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which had started to appear in gay men in the early 1980s. This was hard for anyone else to believe because, according to Gallo himself, HTLV-1 was supposed to cause leukemia, a cancer where cells are multiplying uncontrollably. Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia are diseases where the cells are dying prematurely - exactly the opposite. Besides, there was no sign of these diseases in Japan where the HTLV-1 virus is found in at least one million people. But Dr. Gallo was desperate; he needed something that would win him a Nobel Prize. Much more than money, the Nobel Prize seems to be the force that drives Robert Gallo, and in his mind justifies any means to get the prize he so richly deserves. So when AIDS was discovered and the world needed a cause for this new, deadly disease, Dr. Gallo saw his chance for fame and glory."

The same videotape that was shown in court of the press conference on April 20, 1984 now takes over the screen while Keating continues to narrate.

"Which brings us to the infamous press conference of April 20, 1984 when Dr. Gallo announced his discovery that a virus which would later be called HIV caused AIDS. We've heard testimony during the trial that it took an international agreement between nothing less than President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France to settle the crisis Gallo had created by stealing the AIDS virus from the French. I spoke to Dr. George Mercer, who, at that time, was a research scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico..."

The press conference is replaced on the green screen with video of an interview with Keating and another man, which soon takes over the entire picture.

"Dr. Mercer, tell us what you did in 1987."

"I compared the genetic codes of both the French virus they were calling LAV and the virus Dr. Gallo claimed to have discovered and was calling HTLV-3."

"And what were your conclusions?"

"The codes were so similar - almost identical - that I knew they were not independent discoveries, but had to have come from the same patient."

"You're saying that both viruses had to come from the same body?"

"Yes. From the French patient."

"So Dr. Gallo's virus that he claimed to have discovered in his laboratory had to have actually been sent over from France."

"That's the only explanation I can give you."

"And did you make anyone aware of your findings at that time."

"Yes. I sent my report to senior officials at the National Institutes of Health."

The video interview ends and Keating is once again live on the TV.

"Even a press spokesman at the National Institutes of Health said, quote, Yeah, everybody here believes Gallo stole the virus, unquote."

This is definitely libel and slander…unless it's all true. Sarah can't really believe it. Or is it that she doesn't want to believe it?

Keating has a book in his hand that he holds up. On the green screen, pages 210 and 211, supposedly from this book, are displayed large enough to read.

"Finally in 1991, in his book, Virus Hunting, Dr. Gallo admits that the pictures of the HTLV-3 virus he offered in his 1984 press conference were really pictures of the French LAV virus. But he now claims that these pictures were, quote, inadvertently used, largely for illustrative purposes, unquote."

"We also heard testimony this week that Dr. Gallo had ordered one of his research assistants, a Doctor Pavlovich..." video tape of Dr. Pavlovich on the witness stand silently runs behind Keating, "...to create a fake culture, called H9, to make it more difficult for anyone else to test his theories, contending that the H9 culture was the only one in which the AIDS virus would grow. In essence, Dr. Gallo stole the culture called HUT78 from Dr. Adi Gazdar, claimed he was the developer of this new culture called H9, and then limited who had access to it."

As the camera returns to Keating live, it also begins to zoom in closer, leaving the green screen behind and centering Keating on the TV to deliver his next few lines.

"I also found out that Dr. Gallo even refused to lend the Center for Disease Control - his own governmental peers - any samples of his HTLV-3 virus unless they guaranteed in writing not to compare it to any other viruses, obviously fearing they would discover it was identical to the French."

The camera pulls back again to reveal the cover of what looks like an official government report above Keating's right shoulder.

"When all of this began to surface in 1989, thanks largely to Pulitzer Prize-winner John Crewdson of the Chicago Tribune, the Office of Scientific Integrity - an arm of the National Institutes of Health - was forced to conduct an investigation. They issued a preliminary report in September of 1991, finding evidence of misconduct on the part of Dr. Robert Gallo. However, Gallo's boss at the NIH saved him from disgrace, humiliation, and expulsion by changing the final OSI report…" the green screen zooms in to focus on actual text from the OSI report, "…finding him guilty of only, quote, creating and fostering conditions that gave rise to falsified and fabricated data and falsified reports, unquote - a minor misdemeanor, in other words."

The OSI report fades and the cover of Science Magazine appears….

"But Gallo had published an article in Science Magazine in the spring of 1985 claiming that his new virus had been, quote, isolated from a total of 48 subjects, unquote. Under later examination by John Crewdson of the Chicago Tribune, no trace of those 48 isolates could be found."

…which then dissolves into another official-looking report cover.

"And this led to another investigation by the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services. Their 1992 report found Dr. Gallo guilty of scientific misconduct - the harshest possible verdict, and a death sentence in career terms."

The camera zooms past Keating to the green screen, which begins to list items from the findings of the O.R.I. report as Keating describes them.

"Among other things, the report found that Gallo had lied about not growing the French virus LAV in his own lab; that he had added, quote, gratuitous, self-serving and improper alterations, unquote, to an article submitted for publication by his French competitors, to make the article favor his own hypothesis about the AIDS virus; that, quote, Dr. Gallo must bear substantial responsibility for the numerous discrepancies, including four instances of scientific misconduct, unquote, in papers published by Science Magazine in 1985; and that, quote, especially in the light of the ground-breaking nature of this research and its profound public health implications, the Office of Research Integrity believes that the careless and unacceptable keeping of research records reflects irresponsible laboratory management that has permanently impaired the ability to trace the important steps taken, unquote. They also called some of Gallo's key research, quote, of dubious scientific merit, unquote, and, quote, really crazy, unquote."

Keating looks up as his image returns to the TV screen, obviously having just read from his notes. He pauses, and even shakes his head a little, almost as if he didn't believe what he had just read, either.

"Even Congress got involved in 1994, under the direction of Representative John Dingell and his Subcommittee on Oversights and Investigations of the House Energy and Commerce Committee."

Sarah is beside herself. What is this? 60 Minutes? How did Keating put all this together in a day or two?, she wonders.

"The driving force behind the committee's first draft report was Dr. Alfred Gilman, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, who accused Dr. Gallo of, quote, intellectual recklessness of a high degree, unquote. The Dingell Report focused on many of the things we've already discussed and included Gallo's perjury in his HIV blood test patent application. We heard testimony in court just today that closely aligned with the Dingell Report, which stated that..."

The cover of the Dingell report becomes the background while the various quotes appear on top.

"...Dr. Gallo had failed to disclose to the Patent Office that scientists at the Pasteur Institute of Paris had already performed, quote, extensive work, unquote, with the AIDS virus and had used it to make an HIV blood test of their own and submitted a patent application four months before Gallo's. Despite a legal obligation to disclose all information material to the claim of inventorship of the blood test, the report says that Gallo failed to inform the Patent Office of his use of the French virus in the preparation of his own blood test."

When Keating's face returns to the screen, there's almost an excitement evident, as if he were now getting some pleasure out of exposing Gallo to the world. Or was it because he knew what was coming next?

"When this Dingell Report was made public, Dr. Gallo was forced to leave the National Institutes of Health in disgrace. But not for long. In 1993, a review board of lawyers - not scientists, mind you - lawyers had serendipitously changed the definition of 'scientific misconduct.' No longer able to convict Dr. Gallo of anything more than the misdemeanor already on his record, the government dropped all the charges. Gallo, of course, claimed total vindication. But not everyone found him so innocent. For example, if the highest honor for scientific success is to be awarded the Nobel Prize, the second highest honor is membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gallo's nomination was rejected six times. He was finally admitted in 1988, six years after winning the Lasker Prize for the discovery of a virus he didn't discover, and even then it had to be done through a special nomination process."

A TIME Magazine cover now occupies the green screen.

"TIME Magazine has described Robert Gallo as quote brash, competitive, and vain, unquote. In 1998, German virologist Stefan Lanka called Gallo, quote, an American scientific gangster who had committed so many crass, self-aggrandizing blunders in the previous decade that he could not really be relied upon to tell the time correctly, unquote. The Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Dr. Kary Mullis, considers Gallo and his followers, quote, so stupid they're to be pitied, unquote."

Suddenly there is a complete change of scene. A person is seated with their face concealed and not looking directly into the camera. Keating is nowhere to be seen, but his voice continues.

"One former employee, who requested that their identity remain secret, said this about Dr. Gallo's laboratory..."

The voice is rough and deep, obviously mechanically altered to protect the identity of the speaker.

"It was a den of thieves. It resembled a medieval Italian town with its intrigues and capricious purges.... It was hard to be an honest person in that place.... I know of three employees who committed suicide.... I'm just surprised somebody hasn't killed someone there."

Keating is back and addressing the camera.

"According to another source, Gallo once told a lab member that he liked to hire foreigners because if they didn't do what he wanted, he could deport them. When Frank Ruscetti, a cell biologist, asked why he was being fired, Gallo replied, quote, 'Well, because you're getting too much credit,' unquote. But Gallo didn't seem to stop there. At a 1987 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, he accosted the author of a book that was not complimentary to Gallo, pulled an envelope from his pocket, and said, quote, I have here a five-step program to destroy you, unquote."

Behind Keating is now a picture of the Chicago Tribune reporter, John Crewdson.

"Gallo also tried to discredit veteran reporter John Crewdson, who was hot on Gallo's trail, by calling the Bethesda police and claiming Crewdson had broken into his house. The police found no evidence and the investigation was dropped."

…which is then replaced by a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"Even one of his closest friends and a long-time colleague, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had this to say about Robert Gallo..."

The quote takes over the TV screen.

"Bob will run you over. He has this 'screw you - I'm the best and you're full of crap' attitude. He doesn't give a good bleep-damn who he pushes around, or pushes aside."

Keating is back, by himself.

"In 1996, when his $100,000-a-year royalty payments were nearing an end, Dr. Gallo left the National Cancer Institute and went on his own, getting the state of Maryland to put up nine million dollars and the city of Baltimore to add three million more to open the Institute of Human Virology, which he currently runs."

Pictures of the Institute of Human Virology fade in and out like a slideshow.

"The sweet part of the deal is that Dr. Gallo has carte blanche to take whatever discoveries he makes and market them through a private company, named Omega Biotherapies, of which he is the founder and part owner, and which will pay him very handsome royalties for his so-called discoveries."

The camera pulls back from Keating to reveal Laura still standing there by his side.

"Laura, after discovering all of this, I only have one remaining question about Dr. Gallo. Now that he is in the private sector, with no one to steal from any more, can Dr. Gallo discover anything on his own? A former co-worker said, quote, I've never known him to have an idea that didn't come from someone else, unquote."

Laura looks a little stunned. She obviously had not seen or heard this report in full, and for the first time, she appears speechless. But her instincts as an anchor take over.

"Thank you Dr. Keating, I think. It's not a very pretty picture that you paint of the man we have believed for the last 25 years when it comes to AIDS and HIV. Was all this buried deep in some cave where no reporter could find it until now?"

Keating shook his head. "I wish I could take credit for uncovering this, Laura, but I can't. The information has been out there all along, but no one has wanted to deal with it, or didn't know what to do with it, I guess. I just put everything into one piece, that's all. But that one piece looks pretty bad."

Laura still doesn't know exactly what to do next.

"Well, okay, Dr. Keating. Good work. And that concludes our special report for tonight…."

Sam punches his remote to turn off the TV and finally looks directly at Sarah, who is completely pale.

"Sarah, are you alright?"

"I'm alright…just a little nauseous. Must have been something I ate for lunch."

"You certainly don't look alright."

When she doesn't answer, Sam knows that he's made the right decision.

"Sarah, I've decided to get you some help on this trial."

"I've told you before, Sam, I don't need help, thank you."

"Well, Sarah, I disagree. You should see yourself right now. And I need more on this trial than you're giving me. I just can't get all the dirt from watching GNN. I need to be breaking some of it in the Tribune."

Sarah nods in the face of the truth. She knows she's in trouble.

"I know this is not an easy assignment for you, for many reasons, but I really don't want to pull you off the story. I just want to give you an assistant, and I suggest you take my offer. His name is Gene. He's fresh out of college...hired him last month. He's bright and willing and full of energy. Put him to work, digging. And start digging deep."

Sarah nods again, and then gets up to leave.

"All right, Sam. Thanks."

"Oh, and Sarah..."

As she turns to look at him, his voice becomes soft and gentle and caring, once again like a father to his daughter.

"Try not to take all this so personally."

Sarah nods and walks out of Sam's office, gets to her desk, turns off her computer, picks up her coat and leaves. I'm in no condition to write that column now. She pushes the 'down' button and waits. When the elevator arrives, she enters, chooses Lobby, leans against one wall and starts sobbing.

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