kids encyclopedia robot

Luc Montagnier facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Luc Montagnier
Luc Montagnier-press conference Dec 06th, 2008-6.jpg
Montagnier in 2008
Born (1932-08-18)18 August 1932
Chabris, Indre, France
Died 8 February 2022(2022-02-08) (aged 89)
Alma mater
Known for Co-discoverer of HIV
Scientific career
Fields Virology

Luc Montagnier (US /ˌmɒntənˈj, ˌmntɑːnˈj/; US /mənˈ-/, French: [mɔ̃taɲje]; 18 August 1932 – 8 February 2022) was a French virologist and joint recipient, with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen, of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). He worked as a researcher at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and as a full-time professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Montagnier promoted the conspiracy theory that SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus, was deliberately created and escaped from a laboratory. Such a claim has been rejected by other virologists. He has been criticised by other academics for using his Nobel prize status to "spread dangerous health messages outside his field of knowledge".

Early life and education

Montagnier was born in Chabris. Montagnier became interested in science as a teenager. He studied science at the University of Poitiers, France, and then became an assistant in the Faculty of Sciences at Sorbonne University, where he obtained a PhD.


In 1960 Montagnier moved to Carshalton, UK as a postdoctoral fellow at the now defunct Virus Research Unit of the Medical Research Council (United Kingdom). In 1963, he moved to the then Institute of Virology in Glasgow. He developed a soft agar culture medium to culture viruses.

From 1965 until 1972 he was Laboratory Chief at the Institut Curie, then moved to the Institut Pasteur working on the effects of interferon on viruses.

Discovery of HIV

In 1982, Willy Rozenbaum, a clinician at the Hôpital Bichat hospital in Paris, asked Montagnier for assistance in establishing the cause of a mysterious new syndrome, AIDS (known at the time as "gay-related immune deficiency" or GRID). Rozenbaum had suggested at scientific meetings that the cause of the disease might be a retrovirus. Montagnier and members of his group at the Pasteur Institute, notably including Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann, had extensive experience with retroviruses. Montagnier and his team examined samples taken from Rozenbaum's AIDS patients and found the virus that would later become known as HIV in a lymph node biopsy. They named it "lymphadenopathy-associated virus", or LAV, since it was not then clear that it was the cause of AIDS, and published their findings in the journal Science on 20 May 1983.

A team led by Robert Gallo of the United States published similar findings in the same issue of Science and later confirmed the discovery of the virus and presented evidence that it caused AIDS. Gallo called the virus "human T-lymphotropic virus type III" (HTLV-III) because of perceived similarities with HTLV-I and -II, which had previously been discovered in his lab. Because of the timing of the discoveries, whether Montagnier's or Gallo's group was first to isolate HIV was for many years the subject of an acrimonious dispute. HIV isolates usually have a high degree of variability because the virus mutates rapidly. In comparison, 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, isolated from a pooled culture at the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology (LTCB) of the National Cancer Institute) were strikingly similar in sequence, suggesting that the two isolates were in fact the same, or at least shared a common source.

In November 1990, the Office of Scientific Integrity at the National Institutes of Health attempted to clear up the matter by commissioning 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 American epidemiologist Sheng-Yung Chang, examined archival specimens and concluded in Nature in 1993 that the American sample in fact originated from the French 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.

Before the 1993 publication of Chang's results, Gallo's lab was accused and initially found guilty of "minor misconduct" by the Office of Scientific Integrity in 1991, and then by the newly created Office of Research Integrity in 1992 for the misappropriation of a sample of HIV produced at the Pasteur Institute. The subsequent publication in 1993 of Chang's investigation cleared Gallo's lab of the charges, although his reputation had already been tainted by the accusations.

Today it is agreed that Montagnier's group first isolated HIV, but Gallo's group is credited with discovering that the virus causes AIDS and with 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. When Montagnier's group first published their discovery, they said HIV's role in causing AIDS "remains to be determined."

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. In 1987, both governments attempted to end the dispute by arranging to split the prestige of the discovery and the proceeds from the patent 50–50, naming Montagnier and Gallo co-discoverers. The two scientists continued to dispute each other's claims until 1987.

It was not until French President François Mitterrand and American President Ronald Reagan met in person 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 Gallo was the same as that discovered by Montagnier (but not known by Montagnier to cause AIDS). This compromise allowed Montagnier and Gallo to end their feud and collaborate with each other again, writing a chronology that appeared in Nature that year.

On 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.

Personal life and death

In 1961, Montagnier married Dorothea Ackerman, and they had three children. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine on 8 February 2022, at the age of 89.

Awards and honors

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi for the discovery of HIV. They shared the Prize with Harald zur Hausen, who discovered that human papilloma viruses can cause cervical cancer. Montagnier said he was "surprised" that Robert Gallo was not also 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." According to Maria Masucci, a member of the Nobel Assembly, "there was no doubt as to who made the fundamental discoveries."

Montagnier was the co-founder of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and co-directed the Program for International Viral Collaboration. He was the founder and a former president of the Houston-based World Foundation for Medical Research and Prevention. He received more than 20 major awards, including the National Order of Merit (Commander, 1986) and the Légion d'honneur (Knight: 1984; Officer: 1990; Commander: 1993; Grand Officer: 2009), He was a recipient of the Lasker Award and the Scheele Award (1986), the Louis-Jeantet Prize for medicine (1986), the Gairdner Award (1987), the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1987), King Faisal International Prize (1993) (known as the Arab Nobel Prize), and the Prince of Asturias Award (2000). He was also a member of the Académie Nationale de Médecine.

Montagnier was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College in 2010.

See also

  • And the Band Played On, a book written about the discovery of AIDS
    • And the Band Played On, a film based on the book
  • History of RNA biology
  • HIV trial in Libya
  • List of RNA biologists
kids search engine
Luc Montagnier Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.