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Aids Research Lacks Focus, Needs Overhaul, Panel Says

The government’s $1.4 billion AIDS research program lacks focus, is uncoordinated and needs a major overhaul to attract new scientific talent and spur novel and imaginative ideas, a government-appointed panel said in a report issued Wednesday.

But the panel of 114 scientists and representatives of academia, drug companies, community organizations and AIDS advocates rejected the idea of an institute devoted specifically to AIDS.

Although 15 years of AIDS research have brought impressive gains, the program needs more ongoing scientific oversight and review by nongovernment scientists, the panel said.

It also said there were too many delays in the process that awards grants to scientists in the government and at hundreds of research centers across the country, thus inevitably slowing the progress that can be made against AIDS.

The panel urged development of a better system to track the entire portfolio of money that the National Institutes of Health, the government’s chief research center, spends on AIDS research at its headquarters in Bethesda, Md. and elsewhere. The United States pays for 85 percent of all public sector AIDS research in the world, and the driving force is the NIH.