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Luc Montagnier (C.Restif@unesco.org) is a French virologist and joint recipient with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the HIV. In 1982, Montagnier headed a team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, (which included Francoise Barré-Sinoussi ), that was asked for assistance in establishing the possible viral cause of a mysterious new syndrome, AIDS. Willy Rozenbaum, a clinician at the Bichat Hospital in the French capital, had been openly suggesting that the disease could be caused by a retrovirus. In January 1983, he sent a lymph node biopsy from one of his patients to Montagnier's team at the Pasteur Institute.
Montagnier dissected the lymph node and made a culture from it. In the following weeks, Barré-Sinoussi and her assistants regularly analyzed the culture until they determined that retroviral enzymatic activity was responsible for the pathogenic effect of the virus on the white blood cells. Montagnier and his team named the responsible pathogen “lymphadenopathy-associated virus.” However, one year later a team led by the US physician Robert Gallo confirmed the discovery of the virus, but renamed it “human T-lymphotropic virus type III” (HTLV III). Credit for the discovery of the AIDS virus was a subject of controversy between Montagnier and Gallo, until French President Francois Mitterand and US President Ronald Reagan helped to forge an accord in which both men agreed to share the credit. In 1986, both the French and American names for the virus were dropped in favor of the term “human immunodeficiency virus” (HIV).
Dr. Montagnier’s subsequent research included seminal observations concerning the role of oxidative stress and infectious co-factors in the destruction of the immune system of HIV-infected patients. Besides his involvement in the design of new types of protective and therapeutic AIDS vaccines, his current studies are aimed at the diagnosis and treatment of analogous microbial and viral factors associated with cancers, neuro-degenerative and auto-immune diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A strong advocate of preventive medicine, Professor Montagnier is especially concerned with prolonging the active life of aging people. His extensive research interests and scientific expertise parallel his deep commitment to helping developing countries acquire knowledge of and access to both state-of-the-art preventive and curative medicine. As President of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention he has co-founded a center for the treatment, research and diagnosis of AIDS patients in Cote d'Ivoire, as well as supervising the creation of similar centers throughout Africa.