Dr. William Paul, the top federal AIDS researcher, is leaving his position to work full time seeking a vaccine against the disease-causing virus.
Since February 1994, Paul has been in charge of the Office of AIDS Research, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. The 61-year-old scientist also heads the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also part of NIH, and will remain in that position.
“Formidable obstacles lie ahead,” he said Friday.
“We must find solutions, both in the form of therapies and prevention methods, that will be useful and available to everyone, including those in developing nations,” he said.
“Above all, we must find a preventive vaccine.”
Paul wasn’t even doing AIDS research and hadn’t applied for the job when he became the first full-time director of the office, which oversees $1.4 billion in annual research.
He is known for his discovery of interleukin-4, a primary chemical regulator of the immune system. At the time of his appointment, Paul expressed concern he would have less time for research.
Dr. Harold Varmus, head of the NIH, said Paul has provided “exemplary scientific leadership.”
He said that under Paul, the office streamlined its research effort, increased money for vaccine research and brought more people into the effort through grants.
The office also hired Dr. David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate, to chair the AIDS vaccine research committee.
No replacement has been named. Paul told The New York Times he would stay on perhaps until November.