Nobel Prize for Medicine 2008

This year the Nobel committee has awarded the Prize for Physiology or Medicine to Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of human papilloma viruses (HPV) causing cervical cancer and to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The announcement was made via the Nobel organisation’s Twitter page and on their site.

zur Hausen (born 1936) works at the German Cancer Research Centre Heidelberg. Barré-Sinoussi (born 1947) is at the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit, Virology Department, Institut Pasteur Paris, France and Montagnier (born 1932) is at the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention also in Paris. The full press release for the announcement of the Medicine Prize is here. Where’s Robert Gallo in all this one wonders?

You can get up to the minute alerts on the chemistry, physics, and other Nobels announced later this week via the Nobel site and their new alerting systems with SMS, RSS, Twitter and more (thanks to new publicity guy and friend of Sciencebase Simon Frantz and his colleagues).

nobel-medalYou can find the iGoogle gadget for the Prizes here. There’s a news widget here and the Nobel RSS is here.

Physics is announced October 7 (dark energy/dark matter perhaps?), Chemistry (another aspect of biology, no doubt) October 8, Literature on Thursday, we give Peace a chance on Friday, finally the Economics Prize on Monday 13th (hopefully it won’t go to a merchant banker, given the state of the global economy at the moment). You can get a list of past winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine here and the Nobel announcement here.

10 thoughts on “Nobel Prize for Medicine 2008”

  1. Having read and re-read many histories regarding Prof. Robert Gallo’s “work” on the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, it is clear that his efforts at least directly and deliberately DELAYED recognition of the significance of the French discovery by at least 9 months, if not longer, at an absolute critical time in the spread of HIV. The test he developed and rushed to market was markedly inferior to the French test, available at the same time, and several identifiable people were infected with HIV through blood transfusions or organ donations directly as a result. It is not unreasonable to believe that 10s to 100s of 1000s of HIV infections might have been avoided had Gallo never existed and had the French discovery therefore been recognized when first presented in 1983. Gallo should be in prison for his “contribution” to AIDS, rather than given awards for it. Please read “Science Fictions” if you are interested in the full story.

  2. i thing it a problem going for noble prize in case of hiv :the needed 2 give them noble prize next year

  3. In developing countires science education is hampered not only by the conspicuous absence of tall figures in science, to be shown as examples to students, but also for want of reliable but sufficiently sensational information on grand findings. Nobel winners are hard to come by in these regions. However, one event we at the Sophia College for Women celebrate, as an innovative means of pedagogical exercise, is the year’s Nobel winning work in Biology,Chemistry and Physics.

    This year’s Nobel in Physiology and Medicine shared by workers in the area HPV and HIV is welcome though, the complete silence in the media on Robert Gallo in the context of HIV has been found by some of us as ahistorical, to say the least. For us, who were witness the unfolding story of the HIV in the 1980s and the claims and counter-claims by scientists across the Atlantic, again, the near silence regarding the erstwhile candidate for AIDS, the HTLV III too amounts to silencing an era! This piece of history too is of great pedagogical significance!
    Brain Research & Cognitive Sciences Laboratory,
    Department of Lifescience, Sophia College for Women, Mumbai-400 026, India

  4. Dr. Gallo discovered HTLV-1 and 2, the first two human retroviruses which are transforming viruses and cause leukemia. The French group consisting of several scientists, Drs. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier being two probably crucial ones, isolated HIV at least six months before Dr. Gallo did it. I worked at that very laboratory at the Institute Pasteur about a year after they isolated the virus. Several times I heard the story that cultures of HIV were sent to Gallo but that he for several months did not believe that “the French virus” was a retrovirus because it killed and not transformed the cells. Gallo was primarily interested of human tumor viruses and was a bit over focused on the concept that the retroviruses were transforming more than lytic. However, Gallo indeed was a pioneer in discovering the above two leukemia viruses.

    While working at the Institut Pasteur, it was obvious to me that Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was technically a superior scientist who did most of the viral culture and viral detection work during the discovery period of HIV. FBS was highly respected by her colleagues at the laboratory. Dr. Luc Montagnier was the senior scientist of the team and at the time I worked at the laboratory, he was leading another department at the Institut Pasteur. There is no doubt that the French group was indeed the first who isolated HIV. The greatness of Gallo was his persistence in searching for human transforming retrovirus against the dogma of that time that tumor viruses were found in mice and other animals and not in humans.

    The name not often mentioned any more that deserves enormous respect is that of Dr. Howard Temin who got Nobel Prize more than 30 years ago. He was not only the person who first discovered the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT) which is essential for the persistence of retroviral infection, but an incredibly fine human being whose discovery of RT completely changed the understanding of genetics and revolutionarized viral technology. Dr. Temin shared his Nobel Prize with Dr. David Baltimore but several virologists from that time told me that Dr. Temin was the true father of RT even if these two scientists published the discovery of RT in the same issue of the Nature, summer of 1970.
    Without the discovery of the RT, it would not have been possible to discover HIV.

  5. Robert Gallo is and will always remain equally “noble though he missed the Nobel” in the hearts and minds of as many of his admirers as ever before, around the globe and in India too.He without fail needs a more special mention in this category. We live only once and will not have another Gallo to that podium, i never know. He’s outstanding.
    As regards it is late ot recognise their work so late, I think it sincks down to many years of establishment of the work and the citations 10,000 to get to be reaching the acceptance level.
    Nobel rigid levels.
    Anyone knows who all were nominated in the medicine category apart from this team.

  6. If memory serves us all right, then peace was brokered by the 2 heads of state Ronald Reagen and Jacques Chirac then in perhaps 1987-88 that the credit to French and American team was equal in this revolutionising discovery.
    the important points that I m aware of is Nobel Prize can be not shared beyond 3 scientists and the group with more citation takes it all. In fact one needs to be cited at least 10.000 times !!
    In all recent years its the French group that has been cited most of the time in scientific world.
    Its sad that Prof Robert Gallo does not find a mention of his name even duringthe ceremony as someone who contributed to the outstanding discovery at similar point of time.
    Neverthless, the remarkable disocvery that did a revolution to the mankind has been finally recognised so well.
    In fact, I very personally believe that there are two major discoveries of the last century : INTERNET and HIV.Glad both have had proper recognitions now.

  7. Congratulations to the German and French virologists for being rewarded with the prestigious Nobel prize for their discoveries. But WHY it is so late to recognize their credits by the Nobel Committee ?

  8. The Nobel prize for the discovery of a virus (HIV) that doesn’t do anything? A virus that especially does not cause AIDS! The ignorant must be livid!!!

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