The global community working on AIDS congratulates Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier on receiving the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine 25 years after their discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The identification of HIV was a major advancement for global health and medicine. All the researchers who contributed to this discovery with the Pasteur Institute team in Paris as well as investigators in the United States share in the recognition given to finding HIV-1 and HIV-2. Uncovering the cause of AIDS has led to the development of diagnosis tools and valuable treatments for this devastating disease.
Despite the achievements thus far, we nevertheless still have over 60 million people affected by HIV and less than 5% of infected individuals in the world who need treatment are receiving therapies. Moreover, we face the continual challenges of finding a cure and developing an effective vaccine. The discovery of HIV only 2 years after the recognition of AIDS is a tribute to the advances made in research and the pioneer and dedicated work of Drs Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier. We trust this appreciation by the Nobel Committee of HIV/AIDS as the most serious epidemic to have faced humankind will lead to continual efforts to bring a final end to this devastating public health challenge.
Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was already a specialist in retroviruses when she initiated the quest for a virus associated with AIDS. In 1976, as an INSERM researcher, she joined the Viral Oncology Unit at the Pasteur Institute under the supervision of J.C. Chermann and the direction of L. Montagnier. This position came after receiving her PhD under J.C. Chermann, a post-doctoral position at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under R. Bassin (both on murine oncogenic retroviruses), and a short training period at NCI with R. Gallo. During those years she developed methods to grow and isolate murine retroviruses, demonstrated with J.C. Chermann and L. Montagnier the inhibitory effects of interferon-α on retrovirus growth, and studied the antiretroviral properties of other compounds. She is currently Professor at the Pasteur Institute, Director of Research at INSERM, and President of the Scientific Board of the French Agency for AIDS Research.
Professor Luc Montagnier was the Director of the Oncology Virus Unit at the Pasteur Institute when the AIDS epidemic emerged. He had in the past successively demonstrated interferon-α induction by double-stranded RNA, developed methods to grow in-vitro transformed cells, explored the field of RNA viruses, including the Rous sarcoma retrovirus, and demonstrated integration of infectious proviral DNA into cells. With J.C. Chermann and F. Barré-Sinoussi, he showed that interferon-α could inhibit replication of murine oncogenic retroviruses. He is a retired Professor of the Pasteur Institute and a member of the French Academies of Science and Medicine.
Both laureates of the Nobel Prize remain actively involved in AIDS research in many countries throughout the world.