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Abstract zur Publikation: Unsung hero Robert C. Gallo

Abbadessa G, Accolla R, Aiuti F, Albini A, Aldovini A, Alfano M, Antonelli G, Bartholomew C, Bentwich Z, Bertazzoni U, Berzofsky JA, Biberfeld P, Boeri E, Buonaguro L, Buonaguro FM, Bukrinsky M, Burny A, Caruso A, Douek D, Erfle V, Felber B, Fiorentini S, Franchini G, Gershoni JM, Gotch F, Green P, Greene WC, Hall W, Haseltine W, Jacobson S, Kallings LO, Kalyanaraman VS, Katinger H, Khalili K, Klein G, Klein E, Klotman M, Klotman P, Kotler M, Kurth R et al. (2009): Unsung hero Robert C. Gallo
Science 323 (5911): 206-207.

Awarding the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine to Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for the discovery of HIV-1, the causative agent of AIDS, is timely given the harm that the virus continues to inflict on the people of the world.

While these awardees fully deserve the award, it is equally important to recognize the contributions of Robert C. Gallo. Gallo definitively proved HIV-1 as the cause of AIDS through the successful isolation and long-term cultivation of HIV-1 and developed a diagnostic kit that prevented new infections and saved thousands of lives. These contributions, together with Gallo's earlier discovery of interleukin-2 (fundamental for growing HIV-1 in vitro) and of HTLV-1, the first human pathogenic retrovirus, warrant equal recognition.

Previously, the Nobel committee acknowledged similar pioneering contributions. Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper identified the poliovirus in 1908, establishing the link with poliomyelitis, but the 1954 Nobel Prize was given to John Enders, Frederick Robbins, and Thomas Weller for learning to grow poliovirus, which was pivotal for Jonas Salk and Albert B. Sabin to develop vaccines. Like Landsteiner and Popper, Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier isolated a virus but, unlike them, could not establish whether it was the AIDS virus, an achievement accomplished by Gallo and colleagues just one year later. Gallo--like Enders, Robbins, and Weller--learned to grow the virus and, furthermore, discovered its role, saved the blood supply, and opened the way for drug and vaccine development. Without Gallo's contributions, the relevance of this virus to AIDS might not have been recognized for years, and many thousands more lives would have been lost.

Given the enormous impact of these developments on the lives of countless thousands globally, Gallo's contributions should not go unrecognized.

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