Johns Hopkins University issued a statement yesterday saying that it has ended discussion with AIDS researcher Robert C. Gallo about establishing an institute of human virology there.
Gallo, a discoverer of the AIDS virus, had talked with Hopkins officials for months about creating a special center dedicated primarily to research on acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
As late as yesterday morning, discussions between the university and Gallo continued. But by lunchtime, Hopkins President Steven Muller had decided against the institute, he said, because Nova Pharmaceuticals had withdrawn financial backing.
Nova officials could not be reached yesterday, but sources at the National Institutes of Health, where Gallo works, said he had no intention of signing an agreement with Nova as chief sponsor.
Gallo has said often that if he leaves the National Cancer Institute, where he has worked for 22 years, he wants to join a medical school faculty. But several key people at Hopkins expressed concern about his brash manner and penchant for controversy, sources said.
In addition, Nova, which first approached Hopkins about creating the center, would have played a central role in its funding and direction, a prospect Gallo said he did not like.
"There were just too many personalities and cultures clashing for it to work," said one Hopkins official familiar with the negotiations. "If we could have given him a building and told him to go do his thing, nobody would have objected. But he doesn't want that, and I don't blame him."
Gallo said yesterday that he is still talking with Duke and Yale universities about the center but will make no decision for several weeks.
Had Gallo gone to Hopkins, he would have been far more likely to persuade several NIH colleagues to accompany him than if he goes farther away.
Hopkins is close to the NIH, which directs AIDS funding and basic research, and has close ties with federal institutions.
NIH Director James B. Wyngaarden has been talking with Gallo and other key AIDS researchers in an attempt to keep them at NIH. He has committed a growing amount of space and facilities and attempted to make it possible for the top scientists to earn more money.
The most Gallo or any leading NIH official is likely to earn currently is $100,000. In private practice, they could make several times that figure.