LONDON—A new, open-ended program to fund AIDS research has drawn praise from British scientists who see the directed initiative as a refreshing change from the parsimonious attitude taken by the government toward most basic research efforts.

Six months ago the government announced a special allocation of $23 million over three years for AIDS research. The program, overseen by the Medical Research Council, has already involved 24 laboratories at universities, hospitals and biotechnology and drug companies throughout the United Kingdom. It departed from the customary MRC approach of responding to grant applications by inviting teams of researchers to take on particular projects.

Sir James Gowans, who retired last month as head of the MRC and who personally directed the AIDS initiative, has stressed that knowledge of the AIDS virus is due to 40 years of fundamental work in the field to which Britain has contributed greatly. That fact, he said, answers...

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