Anderson, Christopher. "Gallo Case Spawns New Drama," Science 261 (30 July 1993), p. 553.

 

Anderson, Christopher. "Gallo Case Spawns New Drama," Science 261 (30 July 1993), p. 553.

There are some highly dramatic elements in the tangled story of National Institutes of Health
(NIH) researcher Robert Gallo and the discovery of the AIDS virus - indeed, some would say it's
a Greek tragedy - and now the tale has actually taken a turn in the footlight. I.I.V., A Parable, a
play penned by Robert Martin, an NIH molecular biologist when he's not writing for the theater,
had it first public airing at a reading in Washington last week.

Despite the title, there's no explicit mention of Gallo or the HIV controversy in the play, which is
about a U.S. cardiology researcher accused of stealing an idea that leads to a blockbuster heart
drug. But the parallels are barely hidden. Along with the accused lab chief, there is an assistant
who did most of the lab work and is also under suspicion, an investigative reporter, and a foreign
scientist who claims to have first discovered the secret of the drug.

Here's how Martin's play ends: The assistant actually did get the idea from the foreign scientist,
but the lab chief thought he arrived at it independently. The reporter is goaded by an aggressive
editor in calling it outright theft, ruining the careers of both scientists. Everybody's a bit to
blame, but it's hard to call it a crime.

That kind of modern ambiguity probably didn't appeal to some of the audience members: half a
dozen of the federal and congressional investigators who are preparing the government
misconduct case against Gallo. Their tastes may run more toward a classic courtroom drama with
a clear cut verdict - innocent, or even better, guilty.