The Emperor's New Virus
I had quickly read Shilts's highly regarded work about two years earlier. Though I skimmed through much of it, my most vivid memory was that Gallo erected barriers for colleagues racing against time in search of the deadly AIDS virus.
That night I couldn't sleep. Questions darted through my mind at lightening speed:
This would have drawn DOD attention to his work for potential application in BW research. It struck me odd that soon after the WHO published its report on chemical and biological warfare, the WHO Chronicle ceased publishing its "Current Research Projects" column that had appeared almost monthly until 1969.
Gallo Sounded Dreadful in The Band
Driven to satisfy my wakeful curiosity Gallo, I walked to the den, flicked on the reading lamp, and thumbed to the index of 'And The Band Played On.' I then settled back into the recliner and began to read the sections Shilts had written about him. Robert Gallo, I immediately learned, was the son of a hardworking president of a Connecticut metal company. His mother, Shilts simply described as charismatic, extroverted, and clannish. 
In 1949, at the age of thirteen, young Robert suffered a "turning point" in his life. His younger sister struggled unsuccessfully to fight leukemia. While she was at the hospital, Gallo met the famous Harvard University cancer expert, Sydney Faber, and other researchers who worked to save his sister from death. This experience sparked Gallo's desire to become a research biologist. 
An uncle who taught zoology at the University of Connecticut encouraged young Robert to study at a local Catholic hospital with a grossly cynical research pathologist. Here, as a teen, Gallo performed numerous autopsies.  Later, above his mother's garage, while attending Providence College, he slew scores of mice and studied diligently.  He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1963 and then went on to a two-year postdoctoral residency program at the University of Chicago. Next he became a clinical associate in the Medical Branch of the NIH's National Cancer Institute. Here, assigned to work in the children's leukemia ward at the NIH Hospital, he swore he would "never work with patients again." 
Later he was appointed to head the NCI's Cellular Control Mechanisms Section of the Human Tumor Cell Biology Branch, and then in 1972, he became the Chief of Lab Tumor Cell Biology at the NCI. From 1966 to 1970 Gallo earned fame investigating the theory that viruses played a role in leukemia and other forms of cancer. His efforts examined the role of retroviruses and focused on the unique enzyme reverse transcriptase - the chemical that retroviruses used to reproduce themselves in victim cells. Identifying reverse transcriptase aided scientists in detecting retrovirus infections, and represented a significant advance. Yet, few scientists appeared particularly impressed by Gallo's work.
At that time, retroviruses were seen to infect chickens, mice, and cats, but not humans. 
Following his discovery of interleukin-II, a natural substance that kept cultured T-cells alive and multiplying, Gallo's,
Critics saw him as pompous and arrogant. In scientific politics, "he could be ruthless" and "not always reliable." Gallo himself recognized this criticism reflected "the shadowy side of his character." In his mind however, this pride and arrogance, was required "from the few brave scientists who challenged nature to yield its secrets." 
Among his most valuable contributions to the AIDS research effort, Shilts acknowledged, was Gallo's cell culturing and virus typing techniques.
What troubled me after reading these sections was the realization that he had the cell lines to culture the AIDS virus and the antibodies to detect it before anyone in the world knew what it was. My selected review of 'The Band' quickly drew my attention to another interesting oddity.
Gallo, credited with having identified HTLV-the first isolated retrovirus known to cause leukemia in humans, in 1980, had apparently shown his retrovirus was linked to a Japanese outbreak of leukemia. Apparently, Gallo had first discovered this unique retrovirus; then "searched worldwide for a disease that it might cause." 
Allegedly by chance, Gallo stumbled upon Japanese researchers who were searching for T-cell leukemia's viral culprit. Identifying HTLV, forged a major scientific breakthrough in virology. It also disturbed scientists who recognized that such a killer, due to its long incubation period, could spread widely before it caused disease or was even suspected. 
Something which Gallo was undoubtedly aware with the NCI's charter membership in the WHO "lentivirus" or "slow" virus research network. Still, scientists remained doubtful about the importance of Gallo's work and the future of retrovirus research altogether. Many stuck to the belief that such germs preyed mainly upon chickens, pigs, and cats.  So I suspected Gallo's early work probably involved chickens, pigs, and cats.
That's interesting, I thought as I remembered reading in Shilts's anthology that AIDS patients suffered complications very similar to cats infected with feline leukemia virus:
Dr. Don Francis, one of the CDC's chief virologists, Shilts noted, quickly realized this association. Next, he examined the unique affinity the mystery disease had to gays and intravenous drug users, and how similar this was to the distribution of hepatitis B cases. He rapidly concluded,
Slow Start Against a Hot New Virus
This, despite the availability of generous NIH funding.  Even more suspicious was the fact that nearly a year after the NCI acknowledged the need to channel its resources to fight the oncoming epidemic, the institute withheld its request for funding proposals, and failed to free available funds for AIDS researchers outside Bethesda. 
With all the financial resources at its disposal, and the earnest need, why had they held up everyone's search for the AIDS virus? Furthermore, Shilts wrote that by the end of 1982, "Gallo had had it up to here with this goddamn disease."  But that was only about eighteen months after the CDC announced there may be an epidemic brewing. I recalled that it was in June 1981 that the CDC reported in 'Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report' (MMWR) the first cases of what would soon be called GRID - Gay-Related Immune Deficiency disease - the first acronym given AIDS.
It also struck me as odd that Gallo suspected a retrovirus - his career's passion - and then he decided to quit. Shilts wrote that,
Again, my mind flashed back to Strecker's hypothesis and then questioned - If the NCI began taking over Fort Detrick in 1970 for the expressed purpose of developing defenses against retrovirus attacks and immune deficiency epidemics, then,
Brilliance, Treachery, or Both
Between 1978 and 1983, Gallo's lab continued to pay little attention to AIDS at the "lethargic NCI." In those days, the NCI's chief retrovirologist allegedly perceived the cause to be more frustrating and distracting than legitimate.  During this period of AIDS research, Gallo's behavior appeared at best erratic and at worst contemptuous.
Shilts recorded a series of suspicious interactions in which Gallo all but sabotaged international research efforts to isolate the AIDS retrovirus. One episode involved Dr. Max Essex, a Harvard researcher who had flown in to Atlanta to discuss with Gallo the results of a test he conducted on behalf of the CDC. The CDC had sent a cell line teeming with viruses to Essex to determine if HTLV-I or HTLVII - the viruses Gallo's lab initially discovered and then reported as AIDS suspects - was involved.
To find out, Essex used "monoclonal antibodies" that had come from samples Gallo had previously supplied. But when Gallo learned the group was still using his materials, he blew up.
Gallo spent the better part of an hour berating Essex and embarrassing CDC doctors.
The NCI appeared to be "a repository for researchers concerned with little more than personal glory." Gallo's outburst confirmed the "darkest suspicions about the NCI." 
Another bizarre tale involved Dr. V.S. Kalyanaraman. Kaly, as he was called, had been recruited by Dr. Don Francis at the CDC to develop a "top-rate retrovirus lab" in late 1983. Kaly had gained fame for his HTLV-II discovery while working under Gallo.
Gallo said there was no need for two government agencies to replicate retrovirus research efforts. When this approach failed, Gallo warned, "There's no way we will collaborate with you." He saw "no evidence of CDC goodwill" toward the NCI. Allegedly, for that reason, he withheld experimental reagents including the antibodies needed to identify AIDS-like viruses.
Later, Gallo voiced his concern to colleagues that the CDC was conspiring to determine the cause of AIDS and then "run without me," fearing he would get no credit. At various times, Gallo warned Francis not to work with other researchers, especially the French.
Shilts also reported that Gallo's collaboration with Luc Montagnier was altogether shameless. When Montagnier had allegedly discovered what later turned out to be the AIDS virus, he asked Gallo to supply the antibody needed to examine the retrovirus's dissimilarity to Gallo's HTLV-I.
Montagnier labored to run the analysis anyway. But that also seemed odd. The report I had read in 'Nature' revealed that Montagnier already had Gallo's HTLV antibody test kit as early as 1982.  Shilts also reported that after writing up the results and submitting his paper to Science for publication, Montagnier learned that Gallo was sent the manuscript as "part of the review process."
Gallo criticized the work and informed Montagnier that the acronym he had used to initially name his retrovirus, "RUB," was offensive. The NCI chief retrovirologist then persuaded the French researcher to claim his find was from the HTLV family of viruses that he had discovered. 
Collusion at the Top
Jim Goedert was one of many AIDS researchers at the NIH who was foundering for lack of staff and money. In April 1983, he approached the NCI for assistance and was met with a response far less than was expected given. Gallo's widely recognized work with reverse transcriptase.
So much for an independent review, Weiss thought. Another memo, sent by CDC Director William Foege, instructed federal agency chiefs that,
Change of Heart
Despite his "distaste for the whole subject of AIDS," by April 1983, Gallo could see that "the stakes were being redefined."  The French were about to publish their findings as was Max Essex at Harvard.
Here, Gallo forcefully acknowledged his concern about the French who had delivered a lymph node for him to study. 
Allegedly then, Fishinger promised Gallo that he could have the full resources of the NCI's elite laboratory in Frederick (Fort Detrick), Maryland. 
Montagnier's Alleged Discovery
Once Montagnier learned that the new retrovirus he had isolated was not a leukemia virus, but something completely unique, he chose to rename it LAV, or lymphadenopathy-associated virus, rather than RUB or HTLV...
How could he not have heard about the hottest rage in virology during the late 1960s and early 1970s? What I had just read in Shilts's book didn't jive with my knowledge of the scientific reality. Something was up with the French connection that Shilts completely overlooked. Something deeply troubling.
Montagnier allegedly spent the night reading about cattle viruses and was amazed to find LAV had the same morphology, the same proteins, and even the same look under the electron microscope. 
The French Francis Fracas
Prior to hailing the discovery of HTLV-III as the AIDS virus, Gallo, representing the NCI, met with Don Francis from the CDC and Dr. Jean-Claude Chermann from the Pasteur Institute to negotiate the claims that would be made to the international press. The discussions, wrote Shilts,
Gallo absolutely refused to discuss specifics about his upcoming HTLV-III publication in Francis's presence. Francis was frequently required to leave the room while Chermann and Gallo conferred privately.
Ultimately, Don Francis determined from electron micrographs he had obtained from Europe that Montagnier's and Gallo's retroviruses were the same. In light of the germ's dissimilarity to the HTLV family of retroviruses, he argued in favor of the French naming the virus. Following intense negotiations, however, the naming issue remained unresolved, though the three researchers worked out an agreement to jointly announce the discovery of the AIDS virus by the CDC, NCI and Pasteur.
Shilts then chronicled Gallo's efforts to sabotage this agreement and claim the lion's share of credit for himself. Standing alongside Chermann in the pissoir, he offered,
Chermann dismissed the proposal. The next morning, during breakfast with Don Francis, Gallo remarked that he would probably get the most credit during the announcement because he maintained the most HTLV-III isolates.
Then he offered Francis the proposal Chermann refused the night before.
On April 23, 1984, the announcement was made by Margaret Heckler, Secretary of the Office of Health and Human Services, that Robert Gallo, essentially unaided by the French and COC, had discovered the AIDS virus.
The blood test had already been available for over two years, I reflected, but I understood why they blanched with the announcement of a vaccine. 
The Emperor's New Virus
Ten months later at a prestigious AIDS meeting in New York, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend revealed that Gallo's HTLV-III and Montagnier's LAV were,
Donald Drake, a veteran science writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer was one of few journalists present who understood the meaning of Sonnabend's remarks.
It was now understood by all in attendance. In virology, it is inconceivable that a genetic variation between two different viruses could be less than 1 percent as was the case with Gallo's HTLV-III and Montagnier's LAV. As Shilts put it,
Sonnabend was pointing out the scientific fact that Gallo had simply cloned the virus Montagnier had sent him, then claimed it was his discovery, or Gallo had supplied Montagnier with his virus, and now both were claiming credit for the discovery.
Disharmony in The Band
Even more disturbing than the French-American AIDS fracas, however, was the possibility that Gallo may have indeed discovered the virus, not in 1984, but at least a decade earlier, and the French most likely knew about it. Support for this frightening theory existed, I realized, not only in the suspicious and offensive actions Gallo and the NCI took in trying to prevent others from discovering the AIDS virus. Apparently, Gallo resisted and resented the challenge of identifying the suspected retrovirus as late as December 1982.
Shilts reported with masterful clarity:
In addition, Gallo's staff couldn't keep the lymphocytes alive. They died. Any leukemia virus, Gallo knew, caused the proliferation of cells, not their death. People with leukemia have too many white blood cells. When Gallo's staff added lymphocytes from the blood from AIDS patients, however, to lymphocytes in culture, the lymphocytes would die without any proliferation.
The frustration was galling and, by November, Gallo had made what would prove to be among the most important decisions of his career. He gave Up. 
This doesn't make any sense, I thought. Gallo discovered interleuken-II. Six months earlier,
The IL-II, Don Francis recognized was a perfect addition to a growth medium for lymphocytes. "By easily being able to grow lymphocytes, Gallo had already overcome a formidable research barrier," Shilts reported. 
Now, I considered, Gallo was quitting because he allegedly couldn't keep infected lymphocytes alive long enough to study them or isolate their attackers. I found both hard to believe.
But that was not the worst of it. Following the official United States government announcement that Gallo had discovered the AIDS virus, Shilts wrote:
And their efforts had been allegedly delayed by Gallo's inactivated antibodies, I reflected.
And all the discoveries used methods and materials developed, perfected, and supplied by Dr. Gallo, I realized. The next day, I learned that the testing methods and reagents for identifying RNA reverse transcriptase in virus-infected cells as well as antibodies to detect retroviruses, Gallo and coworkers developed more than ten years earlier than had been publicized. [22-27]
Gallo was among the world's champions at quickly identifying reverse transcriptase enzyme and RNA retroviruses. Long before identifying the growth hormone interleuken-II [26,27,29] Gallo and coworkers identified more than a dozen human lymphocyte and RNA tumor virus growth stimulants. 
His primary business was allegedly trying to determine the cause of leukemia, a cancer associated with the rapid proliferation of white blood cells. Thus, methods and materials used to increase the reproductive rate of RNA retroviruses and the white blood cells they infected, Gallo and company researched in depth in the early 1970s. It was highly suspicious then that following a decade of successfully doing so, he was suddenly unable to keep RNA retrovirus-infected lymphocytes alive. So, I considered, if this was a lame excuse to quit searching for the easily isolated AIDS virus, then what was his real motivation?
As "most CDC researchers privately believed,"  Shilts wrote, it is inconceivable that Gallo would not have readily isolated the "true" AIDS virus well before 1982 given his formidable background and resources.
With all the glory attached to the earliest discovery of the AIDS virus, what powerful force could have moved the world's citadel of retrovirus research - Gallo and the NCI - away from the challenge that could have been met so handily? There were few plausible explanations - only more horrifying questions. Had Gallo been ashamed of creating the virus years earlier, so he tried to block its discovery, terrified it might be traced to BW research?
I never did get any sleep that night.