The Institut Pasteur would like to pay tribute to the memory of Professor Luc Montagnier, who died on February 8, 2022.
Although in recent years Professor Luc Montagnier had adopted positions on various subjects that were hard to reconcile with scientific data and with well-established consensus views held by the scientific and medical community, his career left its mark on the history of French research and also on that of the research conducted at the Institut Pasteur.
On October 6, 2008, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Professors Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for the identification of a new retrovirus responsible for AIDS in their laboratories at the Institut Pasteur in 1983. Twenty-five years after the discovery of the virus, the Nobel Prize offered recognition for the outstanding work achieved by these scientific teams at the Institut Pasteur, as well as the work of their fellow scientists and clinicians at other research institutes and hospitals in France.
Throughout his career, Professor Montagnier received several prizes and honors, and published many scientific articles. He was a member of the French Academy of Sciences, a Commandeur of the National Order of Merit and a Grand Officier of the Legion of Honor.
He stepped down from his position as Research Director at the CNRS and from his role at the Institut Pasteur in 2000.
The Institut Pasteur senior management team would like to express its condolences to his family and loved ones.
Professor Stewart Cole
President of the Institut Pasteur
Historical background: the discovery of HIV-1, the retrovirus responsible for AIDS, in 1983
It was in December 1982 that the task of isolating a then unknown virus – which at the time no one knew would trigger a pandemic of devastating proportions – began at the Institut Pasteur. Contacted by clinicians in the Paris Public Hospital Network (AP-HP), the Viral Oncology Unit at the Institut Pasteur, which specialized in exploring links between retroviruses and cancer, began its research. At the time the unit was led by Luc Montagnier, and much of the research on the novel virus was carried out by Françoise Barré-Sinoussi in the team headed by Jean-Claude Chermann. In January 1983, the scientists were working on the first lymph node biopsy from a patient suffering from "generalized lymphadenopathy," in other words the "pre-AIDS" phase of the disease (before the onset of chronic immunodeficiency). In May 1983, the first description of the novel virus, which the Institut Pasteur team had at the time named "lymphadenopathy associated virus," or LAV, was published in the journal Science. At the same time, a team of US scientists led by Professor Robert Gallo was also seeking to identify the virus responsible for AIDS. A few months after the French discovery, molecular biologists from the Institut Pasteur sequenced the virus, and screening tests were subsequently developed in collaboration with hospital virologists. Over the ensuing years, the description of the viral replication cycle led to the development of several new classes of antiretroviral drugs.