Wednesday, February 4, 2009

$110 Million Dollars Creates Ragon Institute for AIDS Research

Phillip "Terry" Ragon and his wife, Susan Ragon, will contribute $100 million to create a new research institute, the Phillip T. and Susan M. Ragon Institute. The Boston Globe reports that the new institute will operate as an AIDS vaccine research center, joining researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard, MIT and other institutions in the search for a vaccine. The idea is to encourage collaboration and free the scientists from the need to struggle for federal grants and other funding.

The story has a slightly unusual beginning. Bruce Walker, an AIDS researcher, had approached Terry Radon about help in funding the research Walker was conducting in South Africa. Walker convinced Radon that the best way to understand the work and the problems was to come to South Africa and observe the work Walker was doing there. They went, and Radon was so moved by what he saw - young people preparing for death, each one sicker than the next, that he and his wife began discussing what they could do. Eventually he approached Walker and they developed the idea of the interdisciplinary institute. Walker will head up the new institute.

In addition to the hope that these resources will accelerate the work of finding a vaccine for AIDS, the gift also serves as a reminder of the good uses of great wealth. As each day brings new revelations of excessing personal spending by bank CEOs, the Radons' gift stands as an example of what donors can accomplish. As Dr. Peter Slavin, President of Massachusetts General says, "Hopefully this will make a difference in the lives of millions of people with HIV and other infectious diseases. And I hope that it will inspire other people to remember the importance of philanthropy even in difficult economic times."

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