Indian network of HIV experts honour Dr Gallo for his contribution to AIDS virus discovery

Because Nobel prize had forgotten to acknowledge one of the three top scientists who should have shared the credit for AIDS virus discovery, the honour conferred upon Dr Robert Gallo by AIDS Society of India (ASI), India's national network of HIV medical experts, becomes so much more important. In 1984, research groups led by Dr Gallo, Dr Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and Dr Jay Levy at the University of California, San Francisco, all identified a retrovirus as the cause of AIDS. The AIDS Society of India (ASI) conferred upon the prestigious ASI Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr Robert Charles Gallo in recognition of his pioneering role in advancing pathbreaking HIV science over the decades.

Dr Gallo received this coveted ASI honour at the "Pioneers in Infectious Agents and Cancer Meeting" in Naples, Italy, on 23rd March 2017, which also marks his 80th birthday. This scientific meeting is being organized by the Global Viral Network under the leadership of Dr. Franco Buonaguro of Italy, who has been senior faculty for National Conferences of ASI (ASICON) over the years.

“Dr. Gallo, a globally-acclaimed biomedical researcher, is best known for his role in the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as the infectious agent responsible for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and in the development of the HIV blood test, apart from being a major contributor to subsequent HIV research for several decades now” said Dr. Ishwar Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India (ASI). Dr. Gilada is also the only invited speaker from India at this meet in Naples. Among other eminent scientists and pioneers, Dr.Anthony Fauci of National Institutes of Health, USA, will address the conference.

Currently, Dr. Gallo continues to dedicatedly lead HIV vaccine research. He is the Director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Scientific Director of the Global Virus Network (GVN).

“A life-altering event in 1948 gave a major impetus to Dr. Gallo to pursue cancer research. His younger sister and the only sibling, Judy, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of five. Despite the best possible treatment she died in March 1949. Years later Dr Gallo pursued cancer research on leukocytes (a type of white blood cells) at National Cancer Institute and, in 1975, Drs Gallo and Robert E Gallagher, announced the discovery of a human leukemia virus (later known as Human T-cell Leukemia Virus, or HTLV-I and HTLV-2). This retrovirus was later linked to some forms of leukemia and neurological diseases. Dr. Gallo’s contribution to HIV science was groundbreaking- apart from scientifically establishing that HIV causes AIDS, he also played a key role in development of HIV blood test. It is estimated that the HIV blood test developed by Dr. Gallo has directly prevented over 30 million HIV infections worldwide” said Dr. Ishwar Gilada.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been another milestone in the battle to end AIDS. “The discovery of AZT (Zidovudine) as the first effective anti-retroviral drug, was dependent on Dr Gallo's provision of continuous HIV cultures. The ensuing development of Highly Active ART (HAART), and the multitude of anti-HIV drugs since, stem from and depend on the tools and methods Dr. Gallo created” shared Dr.Gilada.

Dr Gallo's scientific publications have been cited well over 120,000 times, ranking him the most cited scientist between the years 1980-1990.

CNS (Citizen News Service)
23 March 2017

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