Summarized by Kent Larsen
Suicide Of LDS Doctor Puzzles Friends, Company
(Doctor's suicide puzzles friends)
Orange co CA Register 5Mar00 P2
By Anh Do and Mayrav Saar: Orange County Register
He's recalled as devoted and caring. 'Something had to have spun out of control,' says one.
IRVINE, CALIFORNIA -- The apparent suicide of an LDS doctor,
entreprenuer and AIDS researcher shocked friends and family and has
cast a pall over the company he co-owned, as his co-owner recovers
from a gunshot wound to the face. Dr. Larry C. Ford, an LDS Church
member an co-owner of Biofem Pharmaceuticals, was called a generous
friend, deeply religious man and a 'boy genius' by those who knew and
Ford died Thursday, March 2nd of what investigators believe to be a
self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had become a suspect in the attempt
on the life of his business partner, James Patrick Riley, who was
shot in the face by a masked gunman on Monday, February 28th as he
arrived for work. Police had searched Ford's house the day before and
Ford met with his lawyer for several hours that morning.
The company the two business partners owned, Biofem Pharmaceuticals,
was a startup that planned to start human trials in the summer of its
anti-AIDS suppository and contraceptive Inner Confidence. The product
was conceived of and developed by Ford, who was called a brilliant
and unorthodox researcher by colleagues and friends. The firm claimed
that the suppository, which is based on lactobacilli bacteria, the
active ingredient in yogurt, would prevent transmission of AIDS and
other venereal diseases and work as a contraceptive for as much as
eight hours. While Biofem has a patent on the product, the use of
lactobacilli on AIDS is being tested by several laboratories around
the country, according to Jonathan Kagan of the National Institute of
Allergies and Infectious Diseases. Biofem has three scientists that
will continue their work on the product.
Police are still seeking a motive in the shooting of Riley, and have
made one arrest. They have charged Los Angeles businessman Dino
D'Saachs with driving the gunman to and from the shooting. They
believe a third person masterminded the attempt on Riley's life, and
think that Dr. Ford's apparent suicide is related.
Several colleagues claim that Ford at various times misrepresented
his work and career. Company documents claim that he was a fellow in
the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but the
professional organization says he wasn't a member.
He also claimed to be an associated clinical professor at the
University of California, Irvine, but colleagues there say all he did
was volunteer to help train residents, committing just 75 hours a
year. UCI's OB/Gyn Department Chairman Thomas Garite says Ford
volunteered in order to develop a relationship, "Larry's main
interest was in research. He wanted to develop ties to the department
so he could have access to patients." Garite said he was fired last
June after he stopped coming to campus.
But friends and family believe he was an ethical man, "Two things
characterized Larry best. He was a brilliant intellect, and he was as
compassionate as he was brilliant," said Bruce Haglund, bishop of his
LDS Ward. Ford taught Sunday school each week and provided Boy Scouts
and adult leaders with free physicals prior to camp each summer. "He
helped hundreds of people," recalled Haglund. "His kitchen table
often had someone lying down on it because they wanted help."
Ford graduated from UCLA Medical School, where he became known for
both dazzling medical breakthroughs and a wacky wardrobe. "Larry was
never a mainstream person. He always looked at thinks a bit
differently," said Dr. William Ledger, professor of obstetrics and
gynecology at Cornel University's New York hospital.
While a resident at UCLA, Ford developed a reputation as a skilled
researcher, and patented a test for infections even before arriving
at UCLA, according to Dr. Hunter Hammill of Baylor College in
Houston, Texas. "Larry was the boy genius of his class." Hammil says
he received a sample of bacteria on the day of Ford's death that he
wanted him to test in connection with the Inner Confidence
suppositories. Hammill is bewildered at the events, "Larry was a kind
soul. He wasn't the kind of person who would kill himself or shoot
anybody. He just wasn't the angry young man."
Ford moved from Los Angeles to Irvine in 1987 and connected with
Riley to found Biofem Pharmaceuticals in 1990. The Los Angeles Times
reports that the company was having trouble raising money to continue
its research. The Times also reports that Ford was a hunting and gun
enthusiast, with a collection of guns and plans for African Safari's.
He had spent months researching AIDS in South Africa.
He has three children, two sons studying at BYU with plans to go to
medical school and a daughter, who is interested in exercise therapy.
"His children are very intelligent. And caring," said neighbor Eve
Christensen. "They obviously learned that from their father." Bishop
Haglund and Ford's wife, Beth, believe that the LDS faith will help
them recover from the tragedy. "Larry wouldn't have done this if he
hadn't reasoned, in his own way, that this would be best for his
family," Haglund said. "He was just that kind of guy."