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HPV, HIV researchers nab 2008 Nobel

Francoise Barré-Sinoussi of the Institut Pasteur in Paris and Luc Montagnier, cofounder and director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, have won the 2008 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine for their the discovery of HIV. Harald zur Hausen of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg also received the prize for his work identifying the human papilloma viruses and their role in cervical cancer. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnie

By | October 6, 2008

Francoise Barré-Sinoussi of the Institut Pasteur in Paris and Luc Montagnier, cofounder and director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, have won the 2008 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine for their the discovery of HIV. Harald zur Hausen of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg also received the prize for his work identifying the human papilloma viruses and their role in cervical cancer. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier will share half the award, and zur Hausen will receive the other half. "I'm delighted that the Nobel Committee has chosen to give the Nobel prize this year to the discovery of two important viruses related to two extremely important human diseases," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Scientist. "My heartiest congratulations go out to Luc Montagnier, Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, and Harald zur Hausen." When a strange syndrome was first described in 1981, Montagnier, then the director of the virology department at the Institut Pasteur, and his lab were working on the control of retrovirus expression. The group decided to examine whether the illness was caused by a retrovirus, focusing on viruses produced by T lymphocytes, which were known to be affected in patients. They isolated a novel retrovirus from the lymph node of a patient with the syndrome and showed that it caused lymphocyte proliferation to plummet. Barré-Sinoussi, then a researcher in the lab, Montagnier and their colleagues linkurl:published their results;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6189183?ordinalpos=6&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum in Science in 1983, now cited more than 4300 times. A year later, in a series of four back-to-back linkurl:papers;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6200935?dopt=Abstract in the journal, linkurl:Robert Gallo's group;http://www.ihv.org/ - then at the National Cancer Institute - conclusively demonstrated that the virus was indeed the cause of the strange disease, AIDS. This year's award is likely to prove controversial; predictions have placed Montagnier and Gallo, now director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, as future co-recipients of the prize. They shared the linkurl:Lasker Award;http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/1986clinical.htm in 1986 for their work on AIDS. The duo argued for years over credit for the discovery of HIV, until they once again began to collaborate in 2002. Gallo linkurl:told the Associated Press;http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gaO75o3eNL1GFbjEKmgAETNTT3lQD93KV8QO1 that it was a "disappointment" not to have received the award along with Montaigner and Barré-Sinoussi, but noted that all three recipients deserved the honor. Gallo did not return a call to the institute's press office for comment. The Nobel Prize committee said in a live telecast that they awarded the prize to Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier after determining that "these two persons made the most important contributions to the discovery." Barré-Sinoussi is the 8th woman to receive the award for Physiology or Medicine. According to the prize committee, German virologist Harald zur Hausen went "against the prevailing view" to postulate human papilloma virus (HPV) as a cause of cervical cancer. Zur Hausen began working on virus-induced tumors in the early 1960s, when few researchers focused on this topic. His early work focused on Epstein Barr virus, which he identified in Burkitt's lymphoma cells as well as epithelial carcinoma, showing for the first time that viruses can persist in the genome of human tumor cells. As a professor of virology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Bavaria, zur Hausen set up a research program to examine viral causes of cervical cancer, including HPV, a known cause of warts. Researchers at the time were aware that the cancer was somehow sexually transmitted, but they believed it to be caused by herpes simplex virus. In 1984, zur Hausen linkurl:cloned;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6329740?ordinalpos=154&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum HPV-16 and HPV-18 from cervical cancer tissue and showed that one of the two subtypes was consistently found in cervical cancer biopsies. Zur Hausen went on to identify the mechanism of HPV's induction of cervical cancer, pinpointing the specific viral genes that were retained and expressed in tumor cells. As early as 1984, zur Hausen reached out to pharmaceutical companies to begin working on an HPV vaccine, but the pharmaceutical industry thought the market was too small to pursue the project, according to a 2005 article published in linkurl:CancerWorld.;http://www.cancerworld.com/ Merck's HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which protects against types 16 and 18 as well as 6 and 11, was first approved in 2006; Cervarex, made by GlaxoSmithKline, followed in 2007. "[zur Hausen's] discoveries have allowed others to innovate, specifically in the development of the HPV virus-like particle contained in HPV vaccines. HPV vaccination is increasingly recognised as an important public health tool in tandem with cervical screening, used to prevent cervical cancer across Europe and the rest of the world," Nicholas Kitchin, UK Medical Director Sanofi Pasteur MSD, said in a statement. Zur Hausen became chairman of the German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg, Germany, in 1983, and still maintains an active lab there as a professor emeritus. Zur Hausen said he was surprised by this morning's announcement. "I'm not prepared for this," he told the Associated Press. "We're drinking a little glass of bubbly right now." The three prize winners and were not available for comment, and phone calls to colleagues were not returned by press time.
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Comments

Avatar of: Matija Peterlin

Matija Peterlin

Posts: 1

October 6, 2008

Being so close to the field for so many years, it is interesting how these decisions are made, who is picked, etc. There has been much debate and politics, but somehow the committee muddled through it all. I guess it is always the first person, possibly the one that looks through the microscope and sees something unusual, or two medical students, who did not know how to grow T cells, or a physician group in Paris that collected the lymph nodes from these patients, one tries to follow the trail, but where does it lead, possibly even to the man who edited the manuscript for Science, etc. Nevertheless, we do not work in isolation and it is the cumulative effort that finally bears fruit and some are left behind. One wonders what history will say and how disappointed are those for whom the prize meant everything. In the meantime, we have learned much and there is more to do.
Avatar of: TS Raman

TS Raman

Posts: 31

October 7, 2008

A near-perfect decision by the Nobel Committee! The award to Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, would be particularly satisfying to scientists that are familiar with the controversies in the history of the work on HIV/AIDS.

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