An $8 million bequest from Microsoft pioneer Ric Weiland – part of a total $65 million shared among 10 gay rights and HIV organizations — was instrumental in kick-starting amfAR’s search for a cure for HIV.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Dr. Marcella Flores, amfAR’s associate director of research in a recent Seattle Times article about the impact of Weiland's bequest. amfAR received the first payment in 2008 at the height of the recession when charity donations were down. “It really set us on a path, a very strong path, to a cure.”
Philanthropist Ric Weiland
Weiland, known for his modesty and generosity, joined his classmates Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 — the year they founded Microsoft — and was the software company's second employee. He left in 1988 to devote his time to charitable causes. He died in 2006 at the age of 53 after a long battle with depression.
The bulk of his estate went to establish the Ric Weiland Designated Fund, which was managed by the Seattle-based Pride Foundation and disbursed funds to organizations Weiland personally selected. In recent weeks, the groups received their last payments.
The financial boost helped amfAR transition from funding early-stage investigations to launching the “Countdown to a Cure” initiative in 2014, which is aimed at developing the scientific basis for a cure by 2020. The Countdown is designed to intensify amfAR’s cure-focused HIV research program through strategic investments of $100 million over five years.
To date, the initiative has supported nearly 140 investigators and key personnel in 16 U.S. states and nine other countries around the world.
“This gift came just as the field of HIV/AIDS research was changing and gave us the resources to keep pace with some significant developments,” said Eric Muscatell, amfAR’s vice president of development. He noted that in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported on “The Berlin Patient,” the first and only person to be cured of HIV. It was a watershed moment in the field of HIV research and proof that a cure was possible.
“It has also given us the opportunity to invest in some of the most promising ideas in the field of HIV cure research,” he said, “ensuring that Ric Weiland’s legacy will be felt for many years to come.”