French virologist Luc Montagnier, the discoverer of HIV, has passed away at age 89.
Montagnier, who won a Nobel Prize in 2008, died Tuesday (Feb. 8) at the American Hospital of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of the capital, local government officials in France said.
Dr. Montagnier, led the team that in 1983 identified the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, leading him to share half the 2008 Nobel Prize in medicine with his colleague Françoise Barré-Sinoussi.
“My involvement in AIDS began in 1982, when the information circulated that a transmissible agent — possibly a virus — could be at the origin of this new, mysterious disease,” Montagnier said in his autobiography.
“Never before has science and medicine been so quick to discover, identify the origin and provide treatment for a new disease entity,” the Nobel committee said in 2008. “Successful antiretroviral therapy results in life expectancies for persons with HIV infection now reaching levels similar to those of uninfected people.”
Montagnier was born on August 8, 1932 at Chabris in the Indre region of central France. He once told The International Herald Tribune that his father, an accountant, had a makeshift chemical laboratory in the family’s garage. That had inspired him to become a doctor so that he could “explain the world through science.”
He was educated at the University of Poitiers, the University of Paris and Sorbonne, where he also taught. Montagnier worked at the Virus Unit of the Medical Research Council in London from 1960 to 1963, and for a year at the Institute of Virology in Glasgow where he and Ian MacPherson developed the use of agar jelly to grow selectively cancer cells.
He returned to Paris to direct a laboratory at the Curie Institute and, in 1972, founded and directed the Viral Oncology Unit at the Pasteur Institute, where he led the team that discovered the virus that causes AIDS.
Montagnier was emeritus professor at the Pasteur Institute and emeritus research director at the CNRS.
He also co-founded the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention which co-directs several Research Centers in Africa.
He received more than 20 major awards, including France’s highest decoration, the Legion of Honor.
In 2017, Montagnier positioned himself against vaccination, estimating in 2017 without evidence that there was a risk with certain vaccines “of gradually poisoning the entire population.”
Earlier this year, he delivered a speech at a protest against vaccine certificates in Milan, Italy. He also stated that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was laboratory-made and that vaccines were responsible for the appearance of variants.
The work of Montagnier has likely saved millions of lives as it was one of the quickest scientific discoveries to a disease that led to a cure.