Stockholm: Two French scientists who discovered the AIDS virus and a German who found the virus that causes cervical cancer were awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology on Monday.
Jubilant: (from left) Luc Montagnier, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Harald zur Hausen, the winners of the 2008 Nobel for medicine. Olivier Morin/AFP
Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi of the Institute Pasteur won half the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.4 million) for discovering the deadly virus that has killed millions of people since it gained notoriety in the 1980s.
Harald zur Hausen of the University of Duesseldorf and a former director of the German Cancer Research Centre shared the other half of the prize for work that went against the current dogma as to the cause of cervical cancer.
The two French scientists identified virus production in lymphocytes from patients in the early stages of acquired immunodeficiency and in blood from patients with late stages of the disease. The virus became known as the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
“The discovery was one prerequisite for the current understanding of the biology of the disease and its antiretroviral treatment,” the Nobel assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said in a statement.
The other half of the Nobel Prize was awarded for the German scientist’s research that “went against current dogma” and set forth that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer.
“His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition,” the assembly said.