Laureates 2009

2009 Future Global Public Health

Robert C. Gallo

gallo_smallRobert C. Gallo, MD, is the Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Robert Gallo's medical research career has involved two long stints, the first at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, USA; and the second as the Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

From the outset of his career, Gallo sought to establish the importance of retroviruses in human disease. He has been multiply honored for three signal achievements, all contributing to improving global public health. The first is the discovery and identification of interleukin-2, a critical factor required for the growth and maintenance in culture of human T lymphocytes (being the host cells for the human immunodeficiency virus - HIV). The ability to propagate these lymphocytes in culture enables to grow large amounts of HIV in many hundreds of laboratories around the world, making a critically important contribution to the understanding of the virus, its variations, its epidemiology and its immunology.

The second achievement is his contribution to the understanding of human T cell leukemia viruses HTLV1 and HTLV2. His penetrating analyses of these viruses, endemic in Japan, have cemented retroviruses as a cause of human cancer.

Gallo's third achievement and his most important contribution, of huge significance to global public health, is his role in the development of a robust, simple blood test for the human immunodeficiency virus leading to the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS. The blood test rapidly became a worldwide tool thus securing the safety of the blood supply, and not less important, helping to identify many persons who carried HIV while apparently healthy. This naturally led to public health measures to minimize the risk of passing HIV to sexual partners. Indeed it is impossible to envision the epidemiology of this huge pandemic without the blood test. Its public health importance cannot be overestimated.

With twenty-five years of dedication to science to his credit, Dr. Gallo continues to carry out important scientific research, which has earned him the recognition of the international community. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and of many other honorary societies world wide. Dr. Gallo has received 26 honorary degrees among them from the Universities of Athens, Tel Aviv, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm as well as Universities in Italy, Belgium and the United States.

Dr. Gallo has received numerous prizes and awards including two Lasker Awards, the General Motors Charles S. Mott Cancer Research Prize, the first Otto Herz Memorial Award for Cancer Research (Tel Aviv University) the Japan Prize, The Prince of Asturias Foundation award; Rabbi Shai Shacknai Memorial Prize (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); Paul Erlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize; World Health Award presented by Mikhail S. Gorbachev; and the Dr. Tovi Comet-Walerstein C.A.I.R. Institute Science Award (Bar-Ilan University), to name but a few.