Luc Montagnier, Nobel-Profitable Co-Discoverer of H.I.V., Dies at 89

He helped discover the virus that causes AIDS, fell right into a feud over it and later turned controversial, taking an anti-vaccine stance through the Covid-19 disaster.

Luc Montagnier, a French virologist who shared a Nobel Prize in 2008 for locating the virus that causes AIDS, died on Tuesday within the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. He was 89.

The city corridor in Neuilly confirmed {that a} demise certificates for Dr. Montagnier had been filed there.

For all of the glory that Dr. Montagnier earned in serving to to find the virus, as we speak often called H.I.V., in later years he distanced himself from colleagues by dabbling in maverick experiments that challenged the essential tenets of science. Most just lately he was an outspoken opponent of coronavirus vaccines.

The invention of H.I.V. started in Paris on Jan. 3, 1983. That was the day that Dr. Montagnier (pronounced mon-tan-YAY), who directed the Viral Oncology Unit on the Pasteur Institute, obtained a chunk of lymph node that had been faraway from a 33-year-old man with AIDS.

Dr. Willy Rozenbaum, the affected person’s physician, wished the specimen to be examined by Dr. Montagnier, an skilled in retroviruses. At that time, AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, had no recognized trigger, no diagnostic assessments and no efficient remedies. Many docs, although, suspected that the illness was triggered by a retrovirus, a sort of germ that slips into the host cell’s DNA and takes management, in a reversal of the way in which viruses sometimes work; therefore the identify retro.

From this pattern Dr. Montagnier’s crew noticed the offender, a retrovirus that had by no means been seen earlier than. They named it L.A.V., for lymphadenopathy related virus.

The Pasteur scientists, together with Dr. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who later shared the Nobel with Dr. Montagnier, reported their landmark discovering within the Might 20, 1983, challenge of the journal Science, concluding that additional research had been essential to show L.A.V. prompted AIDS.

The next 12 months, the laboratory run by the American researcher Dr. Robert Gallo on the Nationwide Institutes of Well being, revealed 4 articles in a single challenge of Science confirming the hyperlink between a retrovirus and AIDS. Dr. Gallo known as his virus H.T.L.V.-III. There was some preliminary confusion as as to whether the Montagnier crew and the Gallo crew had discovered the identical virus or two completely different ones.

When the 2 samples had been discovered to have come from the identical affected person, scientists questioned whether or not Dr. Gallo had unintentionally or intentionally received the virus from the Pasteur Institute.

And what had as soon as been camaraderie between these two main scientists exploded into a world public feud, spilling out of scientific circles into the mainstream press. Arguments over the true discoverer and patent rights surprised a public that, for probably the most half, had been shielded from the fierce rivalries, petty jealousies and colossal egos within the analysis group that may disrupt scientific progress.

Dr. Montagnier sued Dr. Gallo for utilizing his discovery for a U.S. patent. The go well with was settled out of court docket, mediated by Jonas Salk, who had years earlier been concerned in an analogous battle with Albert Sabin over the polio vaccine.

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In 1986, the virus that causes AIDS, recognized by People as H.T.L.V.-III and the French as L.A.V., was formally given one identify, H.I.V., for human immunodeficiency virus.

The next 12 months, with the dispute between the docs nonetheless raging, President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac of France stepped into the fray by signing an settlement to share patent royalties and proclaiming each scientists discoverers of the virus.

Dr. Montagnier and Dr. Gallo shared many prestigious awards, amongst them the 1986 Albert Lasker Medical Analysis Award, which honored Dr. Montagnier for locating the virus and Dr. Gallo for linking it to AIDS. And in 2002 they appeared to have resolved their rivalry once they introduced that they’d work collectively to develop an AIDS vaccine. Then got here the announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.

Dr. Gallo had lengthy been credited with linking H.I.V. to AIDS, however the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Drugs singled out its discoverers, not him, in awarding half the prize collectively to Dr. Montagnier and Dr. Barré-Sinoussi. (The opposite half was awarded to Dr. Harald zur Hausen of Germany “for his discovery of human papilloma viruses inflicting cervical most cancers.”)

The Nobel committee stated it had little question “as to who had made the basic discoveries” regarding H.I.V. Introducing the winners on the award ceremony in Sweden, Professor Björn Bennström, a committee member, stated, “By no means earlier than had science superior so shortly from discovering the disease-causing agent to anti-viral brokers.”

In his acceptance speech, opposite to the views of different AIDS specialists, Dr. Montagnier stated he believed that H.I.V. relied on different elements to spark full-blown illness. “H.I.V. ,” he stated, “is the primary trigger, however may be helped by accomplices.” He was referring to different infections, maybe from micro organism, and a weakened immune system.

By then, AIDS-related diseases had killed greater than 25 million folks and an estimated 33 million had been residing with H.I.V.

After his work with H.I.V., Dr. Montagnier veered into nontraditional experiments, stunning and infuriating many colleagues. One experiment, revealed in 2009 in a journal he based, claimed that DNA emitted electromagnetic radiation. He steered that some bacterial DNA continued to emit alerts lengthy after an an infection had been cleared.

“He was all the time controversial, however I had the best respect for the crew he assembled,” stated Donald P. Francis, who directed the AIDS laboratory on the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention within the early days of the AIDS epidemic and who was one of many first scientists to counsel that AIDS could also be brought on by an infectious agent.

In a 2010 interview with Science, Dr. Montagnier defended his theories about DNA, saying: “It’s not quackery. These are actual phenomena which deserve additional research.” That very same 12 months, he accepted a professorship at Jiao Tong College in Shanghai to analyze DNA emissions. He stayed there for about two years earlier than returning to Paris.

Dr. Montagnier set off one other uproar amongst scientists when, talking at a convention on autism in 2012, he steered that long-term antibiotics may very well be profitable in treating that sickness.

Final Might, he added gasoline to the unfold of false details about Covid-19 vaccines by claiming, in a French video, that vaccine applications had been an “unacceptable mistake” as a result of, he stated, vaccines might trigger viral variants.

And in January, in an opinion article in The Wall Road Journal written with the Yale legislation professor Jed Rubenfeld, he criticized President Biden’s vaccine mandates. The authors stated it was “irrational, legally indefensible and opposite to the general public curiosity for the federal government to mandate vaccines absent any proof that the vaccines are efficient in stopping the unfold of the pathogen.”

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Mark Wainberg, who was president of the Worldwide AIDS Society, professor of drugs and microbiology at McGill College in Montreal and director of AIDS analysis on the Jewish Basic Hospital in that metropolis, stated in a 2014 interview for this obituary that “Montagnier was in the appropriate place on the proper time,” referring to his Nobel-Prize successful analysis. (Dr. Wainberg died in 2017.)

However in talking of Dr. Montagnier’s later work, he stated, “The very fact is that his scientific concepts haven’t been thought-about credible by his friends nor have they stood the check of time.”

Luc Montagnier was born on Aug. 18, 1932, in Chabris, France, the one little one of Antoine and Marianne (Rousselet) Montagnier. His father was an accountant, and his mom was a homemaker. He as soon as informed The Worldwide Herald Tribune that his father, who had a makeshift chemical laboratory within the household’s storage, had impressed him to change into a physician in order that he might “clarify the world via science.”

Dr. Montagnier earned levels from the College of Poitiers and Paris in addition to from the Sorbonne, the place he taught physiology. He labored on the Virus Unit of the Medical Analysis Council in London from 1960 to 1963, and for a 12 months on the Institute of Virology in Glasgow. He and a colleague there found the primary double-stranded RNA virus and a brand new technique to tradition most cancers cells.

Dr. Montagnier returned to Paris to direct a laboratory on the Curie Institute and, in 1972, based and directed the Viral Oncology Unit on the Pasteur Institute, the place he led the crew that found the virus that causes AIDS.

He married Dorothea Ackerman in 1961. That they had two daughters, Anne-Marie and Francine, and a son, Jean-Luc. Details about his survivors was not instantly accessible.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.

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