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01/25/2006 08:00:00

Baltimore Is President-Elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

PASADENA, Calif.—David Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology since 1997, has been chosen to serve as president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Baltimore will begin his term as president-elect on February 21, at the close of the 2006 annual AAAS meeting, and will begin his one-year term as president in February 2007.

"I am gratified to be given the honor and responsibility of the presidency of the AAAS by its membership," Baltimore said. "I look forward to leading this very important organization and particularly to interacting with the community of scientific leadership in the U.S. and the rest of the world."

Baltimore, who late last year announced his retirement from Caltech's presidency pending the appointment of a successor, will remain at the Institute as a professor of biology. One of America's leading scientists, he has maintained an intense research program in his lab throughout his presidency, and is currently embarking on the $13.9-million grant-funded initiative "Engineering Immunity Against HIV and Other Dangerous Pathogens," which promises to address the challenge of creating immunological methods to deal with chronic diseases. This grant was awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Baltimore received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for his work on the genetic mechanisms of viruses. This research has contributed widely to the understanding of cancer, AIDS, and the molecular basis of the immune response.

Baltimore's lab in recent years has announced many important findings while at Caltech, including establishing a new methodology to help fight cancer, developing a new gene therapy that is highly effective in preventing HIV from infecting individual cells in the immune system, and creating a methodology for producing transgenic mice. He has also joined with others in proposing a global effort to create an HIV vaccine. He received the National Medal of Science in 1999 from President Bill Clinton, and the Warren Alpert Foundation Scientific Prize in 2001 for pioneering work leading to cancer therapy.

"David Baltimore will go down in history as not only a great scientist, but also as one of the great presidents of Caltech," said Eli Broad, when Baltimore announced his retirement. Broad is a Caltech trustee and major donor. "It is rare to find someone of his intelligence, integrity, and leadership who can relate so well to people both within and outside the world of science. It was David who inspired Edye and me to become interested in science. We had no background in the field, but he made us feel comfortable. We are fortunate that he will continue his research at Caltech."

Not only has Baltimore been prolific in writing about his findings in scientific journals, but has also been a strong advocate for scientific research by contributing opinion pieces to general-interest media on such subjects as the value of stem cell research, the unnecessary public panic that arose during the SARS epidemic, science research under the Bush administration, and maintaining the scientific workforce in the United States.

Baltimore has several outstanding administrative and public policy achievements to his credit. In the mid-1970s, he played an important role in creating a consensus on national science policy regarding recombinant DNA research. He served as founding director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT from 1982 until 1990, and was president of Rockefeller University in 1990-91. An early advocate of federal AIDS research, he cochaired the 1986 National Academy of Sciences Committee on a National Strategy for AIDS, and was appointed in 1996 to head the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson, and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books, and reports, and spearheads programs that promote the understanding of science worldwide.

Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, and science education.

Written by Robert Tindol