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Professor Robert C. Gallo, MD


Robert Charles Gallo (born March 23, 1937) is an American biomedical researcher. He is best known for his role in the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the infectious agent responsible for 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, Maryland. 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, Connecticut to a working-class family of Italian immigrants. He earned a BS degree in Biology in 1959 from Providence College and received an MD from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963. After completing his medical residency at the University of Chicago, 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.
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 this as being dependent upon the activity of Blastogenic Factor, the T-cell growth factor previously discovered by Julius Gordon in 1965, later renamed as IL-2 (interleukin-2) 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.” In 2009, Robert Gallo received the Dan David Prize of the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University.
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 Institute in Paris, France, 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.
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."
Assignment of responsibility for the discovery of HIV has been controversial and was the topic of 1993 American television film docudrama (and earlier book about the early history of AIDS) And the Band Played On.
Montagnier's group, in France isolated HIV, almost one and a half years before Gallo, while Gallo's group demonstrated that the virus causes AIDS and generated 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."
Investigative journalist John Crewdson suggested that Gallo's lab may have misappropriated a sample of HIV isolated at the Pasteur Institute by Montagnier's group. Investigations by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the HHS ultimately cleared Gallo's group of any wrongdoing. As part of these investigations, the United States Office of Research Integrity at the National Institutes of Health commissioned Hoffmann–La Roche scientists 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 conclusion was that virus used in Gallo's lab had come from Montagnier's lab, a patient virus that had contaminated a virus from another patient. 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.
Because of the discovery uncertainties, the French and US governments disputed a patent for an HIV test that had been filed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 1987, the two governments agreed to split equally the proceeds from the patent, naming Montagnier and Gallo co-discoverers. Montagnier and Gallo resumed collaborating with each other again for a chronology that appeared in Nature in 1987.
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 awarding the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2008, the Nobel Committee decided not to grant Gallo the award. The rules limit the number of winners to three people, and the Committee chose to split the award to include both the discovery of HIV and the discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer. The award was given to Montagnier (HIV), Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (HIV), and Harald zur Hausen (papilloma virus). Montagnier expressed his surprise that Gallo was passed over by the Nobel Committee.
In 1986, Gallo, Dharam Ablashi, and Saira Salahuddin discovered Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), later found to cause Roseola, an infantile disease.

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