October 6, 2008 / 1:32 PM / in 9 years

FACTBOX: Nobel medicine prize - Who are the winners?

(Reuters) - Harald zur Hausen won the 2008 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology for his discovery of “human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer”. The other half was jointly won by Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of “human immunodeficiency virus” Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said on Monday.

Here are some details about the winners:

* LUC MONTAGNIER:

-- He was born 1932 in France, and gained a PhD in virology at the University of Paris. He became a Professor emeritus and Director, World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention in Paris.

-- In the years before the onset of the AIDS epidemic, Montagnier made many significant discoveries concerning the nature of viruses. He made major contributions to the understanding of how viruses can alter the genetic information of host organisms, and significantly advanced cancer research.

-- His investigation of interferon, one of the body’s defenses against viruses, also opened avenues for medical cures for viral diseases. Montagnier’s ongoing research focuses on the search for an AIDS vaccine or cure.

* FRANCOISE BARRE-SINOUSSI:

-- She was born in 1947 in France and gained a PhD in virology at the Institut Pasteur in Garches, France.

-- She joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the early 1970s, and has been an outstanding leader in the field of retrovirology for many years.

-- She is most noted for the role that she played in the initial identification of HIV-1 as the cause of AIDS. Her work is highly cited in scientific literature and she is recognized in particular as the first author of the publication that reported in 1983 the discovery of a retrovirus, later named HIV, in a patient at risk for AIDS.

-- She runs an important Research Unit, which works on the impact of the innate defenses of the host in controlling HIV/AIDS, as well as mother to child transmission. She has co-authored over 200 scientific publications.

-- Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Virus production was identified in lymphocytes from patients with enlarged lymph nodes in early stages of acquired immunodeficiency, and in blood from patients with late stage disease.

* HARALD ZUR HAUSEN:

-- He was born in March 1936 in Germany and gained an MD at University of Duesseldorf.

-- After three years as a senior scientist at the Institute of Virology of the University of Wuerzburg, he was appointed in 1972 as Chairman and Professor of Virology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. From 1983 until 2003 he was Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.

-- Zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that human papilloma virus caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women.

-- His finding led to two vaccines that protect against certain strains of the virus.

Sources: Reuters/www.nobel.org

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