Robert Gallo, M.D.
When Dr. Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus, first came to the National Cancer Institute in 1965, he didn't know he would be staying so long. He planned to eventually return to academia, where he could teach and do clinical work as well as basic research. But he became "addicted," he says, to the research. “There was constant stimulation from so many good people, easy access to technology from so much diverse science around me, and the steadiness of funding.”
He also saw basic research translated into effective treatments at the NIH Clinical Center, the nation's premier research hospital. “With my own eyes I saw children beginning to be cured of leukemia for the first time," he says.
When Dr. Gallo decided to search for a human retrovirus, an effort he details in his book Virus Hunting, most scientists thought human retroviruses simply did not–could not–exist. But Dr. Gallo noticed holes in the standard arguments, and he was prodded by a strong intuition. His discovery of the first known human retroviruses, human T-cell leukemia viruses I and II, came just before AIDS emerged in the United States and proved invaluable to those searching for the cause of this mysterious disease.
Dr. Gallo proposed that a retrovirus caused AIDS in 1982. By 1984, his group at the NCI and a scientific team at the Pasteur Institute had discovered HIV and identified it as the cause of AIDS. Dr. Gallo currently heads the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore.