Luc Montagnier has been awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine 1994 for his greatest contribution to medical virology to date: the discovery in 1983 of the virus that causes AIDS.
His exceptional willingness to share his data with other research learns contributed significantly to our knowledge of the AIDS virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV). This in turn facilitated the rapid development of a diagnostic test to determine infection with the AIDS virus. This test was crucial for charting the spread of the epidemic and for the development of preventive strategies.
Montagnier's team also isolated a closely related virus, HIV-2, which is primarily responsible for the West African epidemic. This discovery played a key role in investigations of the origins and evolution of immunodeficiency viruses.
Professor Montagnier has been of great service to humanity by making the results of his pivotal research immediately available to the scientific community. His openness has spared many people the fate of infection with the HIV virus through blood or blood products or as a result of unprotected sex. His sense of social responsibility has made him a leading figure in the struggle against AIDS in France and elsewhere.
Virologist Luc Montagnier was born in Chabris, France, in 1933. Montagnier received his MD from the University of Paris in 1960. In 1973 he became head of the Viral Oncology Unit at the Pasteur Institute and was appointed Professor of Virology in 1985. Since 1974 he has been Director of Research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) of France.
In 1963 Montagnier unravelled the replication mechanism of an RNA virus, the encephalomyocarditis virus. Shortly thereafter he published a test that made it possible quantitatively to determine polyoma virus induced transformation in mammalian cell cultures. Both of these achievements have had a significant impact on subsequent developments in fundamental virology.
Professor Montagnier has previously received the following prizes: Rosen (1971), Gallien (1985), Lasker (1986), Gairdner (1987), Santé (1987), Japan (1988) and King Faisal (1993). He is Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (1984), Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite (1986), Officier de la Légion d'Honneur (1990) and Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur (1993).