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Luc MONTAGNIER

French Luc MONTAGNIER

French virologist and joint recipient with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for his discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Source :  Jean Louis STRAUSS

Born: on August 18, 1932 in Chabris, France  (87 years)


Biography

In 1982, Montagnier was asked for assistance with establishing the possible underlying retroviral cause of a mysterious new syndrome, AIDS (at that time, "GRIDS"), by Willy Rozenbaum, a clinician at the Hôpital Bichat hospital in Paris. Rozenbaum's role was vital, as he had been openly speculating at scientific meetings that the cause of the disease might be a retrovirus, and it was from a lymph node biopsy taken from one of Rozenbaum's patients that the breakthrough was to come. Jean-Claude Chermann played a vital role in the discovery as well.

By 1983, this group of scientists and doctors, headed by Montagnier, had discovered the causative virus, but did not know whether it caused AIDS. It was named lymphadenopathy-associated virus, or LAV. A year later, a team led by Robert Gallo of the United States confirmed the discovery of the virus and that it caused AIDS, and renamed it human T-lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III).

Montagnier's research was conducted at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Whether his or Gallo's group was first to isolate HIV was for many years the subject of an acrimonious dispute. The controversy arose, in part, from the striking similarity between the first two human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) isolates, Lai/LAV (formerly LAV, isolated at the Pasteur Institute) and Lai/IIIB (formerly HTLV-IIIB, reported to be isolated from a pooled culture at the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology (LTCB) of the National Cancer Institute), compared with the high degree of variability found among subsequent HIV-1 isolates. Gallo's lab was accused (and later cleared) of misappropriating a sample of HIV produced at the Institut Pasteur.

In November 1990, the United States Office of Research Integrity at the National Institutes of Health commissioned a group at Roche to analyze archival samples established at the Pasteur Institute and the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology (LTCB) of the National Cancer Institute between 1983 and 1985. The group, led by Sheng-Yung Chang, examined archival specimens and concluded in Nature in 1993 that Gallo's virus had come from Montagnier's lab. Chang determined that the French group's LAV was a virus from one patient that had contaminated a culture from another. On request, Montagnier's group had sent a sample of this culture to Gallo, not knowing it contained two viruses. It then contaminated the pooled culture on which Gallo was working.

Today it is agreed that Montagnier's group first isolated HIV, but Gallo's group is credited with demonstrating that the virus causes AIDS and generating much of the science that made the discovery possible, including a technique previously developed by Gallo's lab for growing T cells in the laboratory. When Montagnier's group first published their discovery, they said HIV's role in causing AIDS "remains to be determined."

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- Category Physician