Terra Sigillata

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been split between the discoverers of two viruses of major pathophysiological importance.

Half of the prize goes to German Dr prof Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of human papilloma virus as the cause of cervical cancer while the other half went to the French team that discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Françoise Barr´-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier.

Just a few early thoughts: Notably absent from the award is American Robert Gallo, whose role in the HIV discovery has been long disputed. That this Nobel can only be awarded to a sum total of three individuals means that the committee chose to honor zur Hausen’s seminal work on HPV rather than acknowledge Gallo’s questionable role on HIV (ouch!). (note added: Perhaps I’m being a little harsh as Gallo and Montagnier acknowledged the roles of each group in Science in 2002; Montagnier cited the crucial contribution of Gallo’s group as the use of a the T-cell growth factor, now known as interleukin-2, for short-term virally-infected cultures. I’m very interested to hear how Montagnier comments on this obvious issue today.)

I will also be interested to see how the HIV-denialist community chooses to spin this award acknowledging the importance of the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS. I do not believe that the Nobel Foundation is beholden to Big Pharma or receives proceeds from the sales of HIV diagnostics or HIV therapeutics.

Lastly, I am simply tickled to see Dr zur Hausen recognized for the HPV work, of which much of the early work was conducted with HeLa cells. HeLa is a well-known human cervical carcinoma cell line first isolated at Johns Hopkins from an African-American woman from Virginia with cervical cancer. The engaging story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells has been the focus of writings by Rebecca Skloot (PDF of 2001 NYT article) and will be compiled in her upcoming book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Congratulations to the professors on these outstanding accomplishments.

Comments

  1. #1 Coturnix
    October 6, 2008

    And, one of the authors is a PLoS ONE author!

  2. #2 Jessica Palmer
    October 6, 2008

    I have to say that as a woman, I’m glad to see HPV recognized as a medical problem worthy of Nobel attention. Now if only vaccination against HPV was considered worthy enough to be routine. . .

  3. #3 The "denialists"
    October 11, 2008

    You say there are no conflicts of interest? I believe there are some conflicts you seem to be unaware of.

    You say you are wondering how the HIV denialist community will “spin” the award.

    What is there to spin. The facts speak for themselves.

    The following has been sent to the Nobel committee members:

    To the esteemed Ladies and Gentleman of the Karolinska Institue, and members of the 2008 Nobel Prize Committee,

    I, and many thousands of others worldwide, in the name of Alfred Nobel, humbly ask that you reconsider the 2008 Nobel Prize award in medicine, and revoke the prestigious the awards to Barre-Sinousi and Montagnier until
    purification of a retrovirus that causes aids is fully and unquestionably independently established and verified to have a high degree of probability. After 25 years of ever increasing public doubt, Alfred Nobel himself would demand of you nothing less than the highest due diligence in this matter.

    The reasons we find for revocation are many, but to be short and concise, I present to you the following facts:

    Professor Bjorn Vennstrom, who was on the Nobel nominating committee, immediately following the award was given to Luc Montagnier, said in a radio interview that he hoped the award would silence those who claim that HIV does not cause AIDS.

    He said: “We hope this will put an end to conspiracy theories and others who defend ideas that are not founded in research.”

    Though we have great difficulty understanding why any “scientist” would wish for anyone not to question any and everything, the only thing that will ever silence those who question HIV is not science by consensus or award, but credible science itself.

    Pr. Vennstrom’s words are evidence of his bias and political and emotional viewpoint on this matter, and are not founded in the presented scientific evidences.

    By the way, Vennstrom was also postdocing from 1980-1982 in SF with Bishop and Varmus, who became oncogene Nobelists in 1989. But, there is as yet no evidence that “oncogenes” from human or animal cancers can transform normal cells to cancer cells. Yet, the uestions-”why?” are no longer, “scientifically correct” since the Nobel Prize closed the case. Roma locuta causa finita.

    Now the Nobel committee has done just the same with HIV, which Varmus’ committee, including Montagnier but NOT Gallo, named Human Immunodeficiency Virus in 1986 without proof that this virus can cause immunodeficiency (Science,1986).

    Another obvious bias on the Nobel committee, is Professor Jan Andersson, who was interviewed as the “spokesperson” for the committee’ selection of Luc Montagnier, immediately after the award to Montagnier was announced. Professor
    Andersson is himself an HIV researcher with his own grants and “science” that is also highly threatened by those worldwide thousands who question HIV.

    Quite obviously these two Nobel committee members were instrumental in urging the 2008 committee to give Luc Montagnier his award. And in so doing, the committee has not demonstrated non-biased nor credible science as their measure in awarding the prize. It is clear to many looking at this situation that bias, politics, and self interests are at stake.

    Furthermore, the award to Luc Montagnier for purifying (isolating) hiv is unconscionable, considering that in a 1993 interview, Montagnier himself said about HIV, and I quote: “I repeat, we did NOT purify”.
    http://www.virusmyth.com/aids/hiv/dtinterviewlm.htm

    If perchance anyone ever does succeed in purifying isolated hiv from those said to be “infected”, it would at minimum be required to have something more conclusive than Robert Gallo’s presented “evidence” that hiv is the cause of aids, which evidence consisted of 36 out of 72 of his “aids patients” showing reverse transcriptase (RT) activity. (Science 1984)

    RT is not restricted, as was formerly believed by earlier retrovirologists and scientists, to be exclusive to retroviral activity. RT is known to also be caused by yeasts and can also be detected in other occasions as well. RT activity is also not any proof whatsoever of any retrovirus causing any disease.

    Furthermore, Gallo’s “evidence of RT as causation” showed a mere 40 percent of his “aids patients” showed RT activity! A mere 40 percent is far removed from any high probability of disease causation.

    However, those worldwide thousands who DO question HIV as the cause of AIDS are indeed quite pleased that Robert Gallo has been brushed from Nobel history. For this, we do sincerely thank you.

    Be assured, that as soon as “we who question HIV” have credible independent science to back Montagnier and Gallo’s claims, such as purified retrovirus taken directly from the blood sera of immunocompromised hiv positives, such as
    evidence of high probability of disease causation by such a retrovirus, we will be glad to silence our own questioning selves, and we will be glad to join with the believers of the faith that HIV is the cause of AIDS.

    Until then, I, and many thousands of others, in the name of Alfred Nobel, again humbly ask that you reconsider the 2008 Nobel Prize award for medicine, and revoke this prestigious award until purification and proof of causation of a retrovirus that causes aids is fully and unquestionably independently
    established and verified. I remind you again that Alfred Nobel himself would demand of you nothing less than the highest due diligence in this matter.

    Unless you do so, the award itself becomes dishonored as a meaningless display of this generation’s climate of unsupported scientific claims, based on bias, financial and political motivations, conscensus science, and popular
    belief instead of proven, verified, scientifically backed evidence.

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