Once ‘Bitter Rivals,’ Gallo, Montagnier Announce Partnership to Raise AIDS Research Funds, Test Vaccines
Drs. Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo -- once "bitter rivals" whose dispute over the discovery of HIV led to a "clash" between the U.S. and French governments in the 1980s -- yesterday announced they will work together to raise millions of research dollars and conduct HIV vaccine trials, the Baltimore Sun reports. In cooperation with the United Nations, the Gallo/Montagnier Program for International Viral Collaboration hopes to test five potential vaccines in areas with high AIDS rates, including Baltimore, Rome, Montreal, several African countries, Central America and Asia. The partnership, which must raise an estimated $3 million to $4 million to get its research off the ground, has already received funding through the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to test the safety of an oral vaccine that uses a harmless form of salmonella bacteria fused with parts of HIV to "stimulate an immune response to protect healthy people" from infection. The trial will begin with a few dozen participants in Baltimore, and researchers later hope to test the vaccine in Uganda. Gallo also said that Montagnier will become an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore's Institute of Human Virology, which Gallo directs.
New Book, Old Disputes
Announcing the partnership at a press conference in Annapolis, Md., yesterday, Gallo and Montagnier "joked about their past rivalry," in which both had claimed to be the first to discover HIV. "There was a period of conflict, but we never stopped sharing information, sharing ideas," Gallo said. But the Sun reports that the "public display of good will" comes in conjunction with the release of a book by Chicago Tribune reporter John Crewdson that "recounts the bitterness and recriminations" of the dispute (Pelton, Baltimore Sun, 2/14). Crewdson asserts that Gallo stole the virus from Montagnier and his colleagues at France's Pasteur Institute and later tried to stop an investigation into the issue by the HHS Office of Scientific Integrity by refusing to release important documents. Crewdson argues that Gallo's resistance to criticism and his hesitancy to acknowledge the work of other researchers slowed the discovery of therapies to fight AIDS and the search for a cure (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/12). Though he declined to comment on the book, Gallo yesterday issued a press release crediting Montagnier's lab with the HIV discovery. "Both scientists agree that it is now most important to move forward and make history, not rehash it," the release said. The Sun notes that while Gallo and Montagnier have collaborated on a "charitable project" in the past, they have not worked together on research "since their falling out in the early 1980s" (Baltimore Sun, 2/14).