Two French researchers were awarded a Nobel Prize on Monday for discovering the AIDS virus, bypassing an American researcher who played a key role in the discovery.
Luc Montagnier of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi of the Pasteur Institute, both in Paris, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm for their 1983 identification of what was later named the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The pair split the $1.4 million prize with Harald zur Hausen of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who discovered that another virus, the human papilloma virus (HPV), causes cervical cancer.
Excluded from the prize was Robert Gallo, who for years was locked in a bitter dispute with Montagnier over credit for the discovery of HIV from work he did while at the National Cancer Institute. Gallo is now at the University of Maryland.
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Although the prize's rules limit the number of scientists who can win the award to three, Jans Jornvall, scientific secretary to the assembly, made it clear the committee felt that Montagnier and Barre-Sinoussi deserved sole credit because in 1983 they published the first papers identifying the virus in the journal Science.
Jornvall praised Gallo's work but said the committee based its decision on the French researchers publishing their work first.
Other researchers said Montagnier and Barre-Sinoussi clearly deserved the prize, but that Gallo's exclusion was disappointing.
“Gallo deserves enormous credit,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In a written statement, Gallo congratulated the winners, adding that he was “gratified” by Montagnier's “kind statement” that he was “equally deserving.”