Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
(July 30, 1947 - )
Born in France
Year of Discovery: 1983

barre-sinoussi_crop_2008wikFirst to Isolate the Virus That Causes AIDS

In the early 1980s AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) became one of the great unknowns in the world of medicine.  Finding the cause of this killer became a number one priority in labs all over the world.  Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was the scientist who first found the enzyme evidence of the virus responsible for this horrible disease.  Working with Luc Montagnier, her discovery led to the identification of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) which was the first step in dealing with AIDS. 
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was a retrovirus expert brought into the virology department at the Pastuer Institute in France.  She was born in Paris and educated there as well, graduating from Paris University of Sciences and receiving her Ph.D. in virology from the Institut Pasteur and University of Sciences.  She also did postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  While working as an assistant professor at the Institut Pasteur, she began working with Luc Montagnier on trying to isolate a cause for AIDS.  They obtained a lymph node from a young AIDS patient and went to work.  Thinking the causative agent was a  retrovirus, Sinoussi measured an enzyme produced by retroviruses in the cell cultures they had set up with the lymph node.  At the time, there were only two known retroviruses.  Surprisingly, when they detected enzyme activity, they did not find either of the known retroviruses.  It was the elusive AIDS virus they had isolated.  After many more trials and experiments to prove they had found the causative agent they published their findings.  With the identification of the virus, work could begin to combat it.

Dr. Barré-Sinoussi has been very active in teaching others how to research as well as being active in many humanitarian organizations that look for solutions to the problem of AIDS.   In 2008, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery along with Luc Montagnier.  To sum up her philosophy she said, “There is always hope in life, because there is always hope in science.” 

Written by sciene writer, Martha Pat Kinney

Lives Saved:  Over 22,000,000

In the 1990s a person with HIV had to take as many as 20 pills a day - today a person takes only 1 pill a day (that contains multiple drugs)
In the 1980s a person with AIDS had about 18 months to live - today a person with HIV will likely live close to a normal lifespan

Key Contributors
Luc Montagnier - Discovered the HIV Retrovirus
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi - Discovered the HIV Retrovirus
Jermoe Horwitz - Discovered the Lifesaving Drug AZT
Wolfram Ostertag - Discovered the Lifesaving Drug AZT
Bernard Belleau - Discovered the Lifesaving Drug 3TC

Barre-Sinoussi in 1983
Copyright Institut Pasteur

Links to More About the Scientist & the Science
Barre-Sinoussi's Nobel Prize Biography 
Barre-Sinoussi's Wikipedia Page