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Robert Charles Gallo (born March 23, 1937) is a U.S. biomedical researcher. He is best known for his co-discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the infectious agent responsible for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and he has been a major contributor to subsequent HIV research.

Gallo is the director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Marylandmarker. He and two longtime scientific collaborators, Robert R. Redfield and William A. Blattner, co-founded the institute in 1996 in a partnership including the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. In 2005, Gallo co-founded Profectus BioSciences, Inc., which develops and commercializes technologies to reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by human viral diseases, including HIV.

Gallo was born in Waterbury, Connecticutmarker to a working-class family of Italian immigrants. He earned a BS degree in Biology in 1959 from Providence Collegemarker and received an MD from Jefferson Medical Collegemarker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1963. After completing his medical residency at the University of Chicagomarker, he became a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. Gallo states that his choice of profession was influenced by the early death of his sister from leukemia, a disease to which he initially dedicated much of his research.

Retrovirus work

Robert C.
Gallo (in the early eighties)
After listening to a talk by biologist David Baltimore, Gallo became interested in the study of retroviruses, and made their study the primary activity of his lab. In 1976, Doris Morgan, a researcher in Gallo's lab, was successful in growing T lymphocytes. Frank Ruscetti, Gallo, and Morgan coauthored a paper in Science describing their method. Morgan and Ruscetti eventually identified the activity of a new T-cell growth factor, later isolated and identified as IL-2 (interleukin-2) by a lab led by Kendall A. Smith. These breakthroughs allowed researchers to grow T-cells and study the viruses that affect them, such as human T-cell leukemia virus, or HTLV, the first retrovirus identified in humans, which Bernard Poiesz and Ruscetti isolated in Gallo's lab. HTLV's role in leukemia was clarified when a group of Japanese researchers, puzzling over an outbreak of a rare form of the disease, independently isolated the same retrovirus and showed it was the cause. In 1982, Gallo received the prestigious Lasker Award: “For his pioneering studies that led to the discovery of the first human RNA tumor virus and its association with certain leukemias and lymphomas.”

HIV/AIDS research and subsequent controversy

On May 4, 1984, Gallo and his collaborators published a series of four papers in the scientific journal Science demonstrating that a retrovirus they had isolated, called HTLV-III in the belief that the virus was related to the leukemia viruses of Gallo's earlier work, was the cause of AIDS. A French team at the Pasteur Institutemarker in Paris, Francemarker, led by Luc Montagnier, had published a paper in Science in 1983, describing a retrovirus they called LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus), isolated from a patient at risk for AIDS.

Gallo was awarded his second Lasker Award in 1986 for "determining that the retrovirus now known as HIV-1 is the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).” He is the only recipient of two Lasker Awards.

Since then, there has been considerable and sometimes acrimonious controversy over the priority for the discovery of HIV, including accusations (which were later dropped) that Gallo's lab misappropriated a sample of HIV produced at the Institut Pasteur. In November 1990, the United States Office of Research Integrity at the National Institutes of Healthmarker commissioned a group at Hoffmann–La 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 Sheng-Yung Chang, examined archival specimens and concluded in Nature in 1993 that Gallo's virus had come from Montagnier's 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.

Today it is agreed that Montagnier's group first isolated HIV, but Gallo's group is credited with demonstrating that the virus causes AIDS and 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 Frenchor from the US 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 discovery and the proceeds from the patent 50-50, naming Montagnier and Gallo co-discoverers. The compromise allowed Montagnier and Gallo to end their feud and collaborate with each other again for a chronology that appeared in Nature that year.

The Chicago Tribune published an investigative report by reporter John Crewdson in 1990 which questioned whether Gallo's laboratory had taken the virus from Montagnier, which led to National Institutes of Healthmarker (NIH) and Congressional investigations that ultimately cleared Gallo's group from any wrongdoing. In 1994, when further investigations revealed that there was no evidence that Gallo had invented the AIDS test and that the Institut Pasteur had applied for a patent for its own test months before Gallo, the NIH agreed to award a greater share of the patent royalties to the Institut Pasteur.

In the November 29, 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.

In 1995, Gallo published his discovery that chemokines, a class of naturally occurring compounds, can block HIV and halt the progression of AIDS. This was heralded by Science magazine as one of the top scientific breakthroughs within the same year of his publication. The role chemokines play in controlling the progression of HIV infection has influenced thinking on how AIDS works against the human immune system and led to a class of drugs used to treat HIV, the chemokine antagonists or entry inhibitors.

Gallo's team at the Institute of Human Virology maintain an ongoing program of scientific research and clinical care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, treating more than 4,000 patients in Baltimore and 200,000 patients at institute-supported clinics in Africa and the Caribbean. In July 2007, Gallo and his team were awarded a $15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research into a preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS.

In 2008, Montagnier and his colleague Francoise Barre-Sinoussi from the Institut Pasteur were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on the discovery of HIV. Harald zur Hausen also shared the Prize for his discovery that human papilloma viruses lead to cervical cancer, but Gallo was left out. Gallo said that it was "a disappointment" that he was not named a co-recipient. Montagnier said he was "surprised" Gallo was not 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."

See also


  1. Profectus Biosciences, Inc
  3. Kendall A. Smith, "Interleukin-2: inception, impact, and implications." Science. 1988 May 27;240(4856):1169-76.
  6. Lasker Awardees
  7. The four papers are, *Popovic M, Sarngadharan MG, Read E, Gallo RC. (1984) Detection, isolation, and continuous production of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and pre-AIDS. Science 224(4648): 497-500 (4 May). PMID 6200935 *Gallo RC, Salahuddin SZ, Popovic M, Shearer GM, Kaplan M, Haynes BF, Palker TJ, Redfield R, Oleske J, Safai B, et al. (1984) Frequent detection and isolation of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and at risk for AIDS. Science 224(4648): 500-3 (4 May). PMID 6200936 *Schüpbach J, Popovic M, Gilden RV, Gonda MA, Sarngadharan MG, Gallo RC. (1984) Serological analysis of a subgroup of human T-lymphotropic retroviruses (HTLV-III) associated with AIDS. Science 224(4648): 503-5 (4 May). PMID 6200937 *Sarngadharan MG, Popovic M, Bruch L, Schüpbach J, Gallo RC. (1984) Antibodies reactive with human T-lymphotropic retroviruses (HTLV-III) in the serum of patients with AIDS. Science 224(4648): 506-8 (4 May). PMID 6324345
  8. Barré-Sinoussi F, Chermann JC, Rey F, Nugeyre MT, Chamaret S, Gruest J, Dauguet C, Axler-Blin C, Vézinet-Brun F, Rouzioux C, Rozenbaum W, Montagnier L. (1983) Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Science 220(4599): 868-71 (20 May). PMID 6189183
  10. Summary of fraud accusation
  11. PMID 8502298 (Open access)
  13. Montagnier L. (2002) Historical essay. A History of HIV Discovery. Science 298(5599): 1727-8 (29 November). PMID 12459575 Gallo RC. (2002) Historical essay. The Early Years of HIV/AIDS. Science 298(5599): 1728-30 (29 November). PMID 12459576 Gallo RC & Montagnier L. (2002) Historical essay. Prospects for the Future. Science 298(5599): 1730-1 (29 November). PMID 12459577
  14. the Institute of Human Virology: About IHV
  15. VoA Zulima Palacio. "AIDS Research Continues at US Laboratory, After Human Trials Halted." Voice of America, May 8, 2008.

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