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Dionne, Gervais

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Gervais Dionne

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Gervais Dionne
(dob - )
Born in
Year of Discovery: 1989

Discovers New AIDS Drug

Dionne is a talented chemist.  Following graduation, he worked for several years as a research scientist with Ayerst Laboratories. Then, when Ayerst relocated its operations to the United States, Dionne accepted a position as a research scientist group leader with a research company associated with the University of Quebec. During the two years he spent there, he developed a strong bond with two fellow researchers, Francesco Bellini and Bernard Belleau. The trio formed their own drug-development company and began work on the anti-AIDS drug 3TC. The drug was a major success, proving to be effective in fighting AIDS and having fewer side effects than the then current treatment, AZT. The introduction of 3TC was a significant advance in the fight against AIDS, and is credited with saving over 2 million lives.

Human immunodeficiency virus originated in West Africa, with the first confirmed case being recorded in 1959. The virus slowly spread across Africa and then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, exploded throughout other parts of the world. HIV is the underlying cause of AIDS, a disease that attacks the immune system, and is passed from person to person through contact with bodily fluids. As AIDS progresses, individuals become less able to ward off infections and get sick from things that a normal healthy immune system would easily fight off.  Health officials initially thought the disease was limited to homosexual men living in large metropolitan areas. But, they quickly discovered that both hemophiliacs and heterosexual intravenous drug users were also being infected. A French physician, Luc Montagnier, initially discovered that the underlying cause of AIDS was a retrovirus, a virus capable of reprogramming the body with a defective genetic code. This was a major breakthrough, allowing other scientists to develop treatments, and AZT became the first drug approved to fight AIDS.

Belleau had developed a chemical structure to fight against AIDS, and the trio took this compound and refined it. The result was the drug 3TC. At the time, AZT was the only available treatment for AIDS. But, over 90 percent of those patients treated with AZT developed a resistance to it within the first year of treatment - and experienced significant damage to their immune systems. Dionne and his colleagues wanted to develop a treatment that would fight AIDS, but avoid the side effects of severe pain, bone marrow destruction, and anemia (low amounts of red blood cells). They succeeded with the unique 3TC treatment. 3TC works by preventing the HIV retrovirus from altering the cell's genetic structure. This retards the spread of AIDS within the body, as new cells are no longer susceptible. Though 3TC doesn't repair the damage already done to existing cells, it offers widespread protection to the remaining uninfected cells. Best of all, it achieves this without the debilitating side effects patients had previously experienced. 3TC proved to be even more effective when combined with lower doses of AZT. This combination was the first "cocktail" treatment to fight against AIDS.



Introduction by Tim Anderson


Table of Contents

Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Insight
Key Experiment or Research
Key Contributors
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Personal Information
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Major Academic Papers
Curriculum Vitae
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject


Links to More About the Scientist & the Science

BNET article about Dionne, including profile:

An article by Dionne about the importance of pharmaceutical research:

The New York Times article about approval of Dionne's new AIDS drug:

Thallion Pharma profile of Dionne:

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Key Insight

Key Experiments or Research


Key Contributors

The Team
Explore other scientists who furthered this lifesaving advance.
Lifesavers: AIDS
Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome
Luc Montagnier
Developed the blood test to detect HIV, the underlying cause of AIDS.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
A retrovirus expert, she was the first to isolate the AIDS virus.
Bernard Belleau
Co-developed the effective AIDS drug 3TC, which had fewer side effects than AZT.
Francesco Bellini
Co-developed the effective AIDS drug 3TC, which had fewer side effects than AZT.
Nghe Nguyen-Ga
Co-developed the effective AIDS drug 3TC, which had fewer side effects than AZT.

Quotes by the Scientist

Quotes About the Scientist


Fun Trivia About the Science

The Science Behind the Discovery

Personal Information

Scientific Discovery Timeline

Recommended Books About the Science

Books by the Scientist

Books About the Scientist



Major Academic Papers Written by the Scientist

Curriculum Vitae

Links to Information on the Science