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Queens College AIDS doc raises $0

Dr. Luc Montagnier, the co-discover of the virus that causes AIDS, was courted almost three years ago by Queens College to conduct research in a free-standing structure that was to be built on the Flushing campus with funds from private donors as well as a matching contribution from the state.

But Montagnier has yet to raise funds on his own, a requirement of any professor who wishes to conduct research at Queens College, said Ron Cannava, a spokesman for the college.

"If the research is funded, the center will permit him to do whatever research he chooses," he said.

Cannava did say Montagnier may have applied for a grant, but he was not clear about how much the grant was worth. Even if Montagnier fails to raise funds for his research, other scientists will be allowed to use the center once it is built, Cannava said.

Efforts to reach Montagnier, who also works at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris, were unsuccessful.

Plans to build the $30 million center, to be named the Bernard and Gloria Salick Center of Molecular Biology, were first announced in January 1998 by former Queens College President Allen Sessoms, but the outlook for the project is now uncertain.

Queens College did not meet a state-imposed deadline on Nov. 30, 1999 to raise $15 million and the agreement for the state to provide matching funds was abrogated, City University officials said.

So far, the college has raised $9 million for the proposed facility, Cannava said. City university officials are looking into whether the state would still be willing to provide some or all of the $15 million originally set aside to match the college's fund-raising.

But Cannava could not say when the proposal would be decided on.

"All I know is that the proposal takes time," he said. "It has to go through the proper channels. We don't have an adopted project: we have a proposal."

In an interview last month, Dr. Russell K. Hotzler, the interim college president, said there were no longer any plans to house a research facility chaired by Montagnier in a free-standing structure.

Now the City University is working out details with the state to amend the terms of the original proposal, which would permit the center to be housed on campus in Remsen Hall rather than in a new structure, Cannava said.

Back in 1998 Bernard Salick, an alumnus of the class of 1960, pledged $4.5 million for the research center, which would focus not only on finding a cure for the AIDS virus but also for other diseases that affect the human immune system. He had also given $3 million to endow a faculty chair for Montagnier in hopes of planting Queens College firmly at the forefront of AIDS research.

Salick, who lives in California with his wife, could not be reached for comment.

The City Council also provided some funds for the proposed AIDS center, Cannava said.

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