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Luc Antoine Montagnier

Luc Montagnier, 1995
Born 18 August 1932 (1932-08-18) (age 77)
Chabris, France
Nationality French
Fields Virology
Institutions Pasteur Institute
Known for Discovery of HIV
Notable awards 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Luc Antoine Montagnier (born 18 August 1932 in Chabris, Indre) is a French virologist and joint recipient with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[1], for his discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).


History of the discovery of HIV

In 1982, he 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.[2] 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).[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Today it is agreed that Montagnier's group first isolated HIV,[6] 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.[7] When Montagnier's group first published their discovery, they said HIV's role in causing AIDS "remains to be determined."[8]

The question of whether the true discoverers of the virus were French or American was more than a matter of prestige. A US government patent for the AIDS test, filed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and based on what was claimed to be Gallo's identification of the virus, was at stake.[9] In 1987, both governments attempted to end the dispute by arranging to split the prestige of discovery and the proceeds from the patent 50-50,[9] naming Montagnier and Gallo co-discoverers.[8] The two scientists continued to dispute each other's claims until 1987. It was not until President François Mitterrand of France and President Ronald Reagan of the USA met that the major issues were ironed out. The scientific protagonists finally agreed to share credit for the discovery of HIV, and in 1986, both the French and the US names (LAV and HTLV-III) were dropped in favor of the new term human immunodeficiency virus (virus de l'immunodéficience humaine, abbreviated HIV or VIH) (Coffin, 1986). They concluded that the origin of the HIV-1 Lai/IIIB isolate discovered by Robert Gallo was the same as that discovered by Montagnier (but not known by Montagnier to cause AIDS). The compromise allowed Montagnier and Gallo to end their feud and collaborate with each other again for a chronology that appeared in Nature that year.[8]

The Chicago Tribune published an investigative report by reporter John Crewdson in 1990 which questioned whether Gallo's laboratory had taken the virus from Montagnier, which led to National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Congressional investigations that ultimately cleared Gallo's group from any wrongdoing.[8] In 1994, when further investigations revealed that there was no evidence that Gallo had invented the AIDS test and that the Institut Pasteur had applied for a patent for its own test months before Gallo, the NIH agreed to award a greater share of the patent royalties to the Institut Pasteur.[10]

In the 29 November 2002 issue of Science, Gallo and Montagnier published a series of articles, one of which was co-written by both scientists, in which they acknowledged the pivotal roles that each had played in the discovery of HIV.[11]

Awards and honors

However, in 2008, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Montagnier for the discovery of HIV, while Robert Gallo was conspicuously omitted.[12] Montagnier shared it with his colleague Françoise Barre-Sinoussi from the Institut Pasteur for their work on the discovery of HIV. Harald zur Hausen also shared the Prize for his discovery that human papilloma viruses led to cervical cancer, but Gallo was left out.[8] Gallo said that it was "a disappointment" that he was not named a co-recipient.[13] Montagnier said he was "surprised" Gallo was not recognized by the Nobel Committee: "It was important to prove that HIV was the cause of AIDS, and Gallo had a very important role in that. I'm very sorry for Robert Gallo."[8] According to Maria Masucci, a member of the Nobel Assembly, "there was no doubt as to who made the fundamental discoveries." [12]

Montagnier is the co-founder of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and co-directs the Program for International Viral Collaboration. He is President of the Houston-based World Foundation for Medical Research and Prevention. He has received more than 20 major awards, including the Légion d'honneur (Commandeur in 1994; Grand Officier in 2009)[14], the Lasker Award (1986), the Gairdner Award (1987), King Faisal Foundation International Prize (1993) (known as the Arab Nobel Prize), the Prince of Asturias Award (2000) and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2008). The latter was awarded to him for the discovery of HIV.

Electromagnetic signals from bacterial DNA

Montagnier has published research detecting electromagnetic signals (EMS) from bacterial DNA (M. pirum and E. coli) after serial agitated dilution in water, and has conducted as-yet unpublished research on detection of EMS in the plasma and in the DNA extracted from the plasma of patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.[15]

Legal Battle

In 2009, Montagnier became involved in a legal battle with inventor Bruno Robert over the intellectual property rights to these techniques. Robert, who had previously researched "digital biology" with Jacques Benveniste, approached Montagnier in May 2005 regarding his work on EMS. In November 2005, Robert registered a patent for the process of homing in on a "biochemical element presenting a biological activity through the analysis of low-frequency electromagnetic signals." A month later, INPI, France's patents body, received a request for the same patent from Montagnier. Montagnier took Robert to court, claiming that he had intellectual property rights over this process. However, Robert's lawyer alleged that Montagnier had already admitted that he had not come up with the discovery, as he had signed a contract to use Robert's technique in 2005. In response, Montagnier's lawyer said the pair had only signed a "protocol agreement" which was not legally binding.[16] In July 2009, the court ruled that Robert's 2005 patent application was 'fraudulent', because it had subtracted all of Montagnier's contribution, which the court estimated at 50%.[17]

See also


  1. ^, Nobel prize for viral discoveries
  2. ^ Barré-Sinoussi F, Chermann JC, Rey F, Nugeyre MT, Chamaret S, Gruest J, Dauguet C, Axler-Blin C, Vézinet-Brun F, Rouzioux C, Rozenbaum W, Montagnier L (1983). "Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)". Science 220 (4599): 868–871. PMID 6189183. 
  3. ^ Popovic M, Sarngadharan MG, Read E, Gallo RC (1984). "Detection, isolation, and continuous production of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS". Science 224 (4648): 497–500. PMID 6200935. 
  4. ^ Summary of fraud accusation
  5. ^ Sheng-Yung P. Chang, Barbara H. Bowman, Judith B. Weiss, Rebeca E. Garcia & Thomas J. White (1993). "The origin of HIV-1 isolate HTLV-IIIB". Nature 363: 466–469. doi:10.1038/363466a0.  PMID 8502298 (Open access)
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d e f "HIV, HPV Researchers Honored, But One Scientist is Left Out". Science 322: pp. 149–328. October 2008. 
  9. ^ a b Hilts, Philip (1993-11-13). "U.S. Drops Misconduct Case Against an AIDS Researcher". New York Times. 
  10. ^ Crewdson, John (1995-01-01). "In Gallo Case, Truth Termed a Casualty". Chicago Tribune.,0,3935882,print.story. 
  11. ^ Montagnier L. (2002) Historical essay. A History of HIV Discovery. Science 298(5599): 1727-8 (29 November). PMID 12459575 Gallo RC. (2002) Historical essay. The Early Years of HIV/AIDS. Science 298(5599): 1728-30 (29 November). PMID 12459576 Gallo RC & Montagnier L. (2002) Historical essay. Prospects for the Future. Science 298(5599): 1730-1 (29 November). PMID 12459577
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ Altman, Lawrence (2008-10-06). "Three Europeans Win the 2008 Nobel for Medicine". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  14. ^ "Décret du 31 décembre 2008 portant élévation et nomination aux dignités de grand'croix et de grand officier". JORF 2009 (1): 14. 2009-01-01. PREX0828225D. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  15. ^ MONTAGNIER, L, AÄISSA, J et al. Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) DOI: 10.1007/s12539-009-0036-7 [1] Accessed 1 Sep 2009
  16. ^ Samuel, Henry (08 Mar 2009). Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  17. ^

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