robert gallo

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - BY AN­THONY S. FAUCI Twit­ter: @NIAIDNews An­thony S. Fauci is the di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health.

As we celebrate the con­tri­bu­tions of im­por­tant Ital­ian Amer­i­cans, we should rec­og­nize Robert Gallo, an ex­plorer of the world of science who co-dis­cov­ered HIV and proved that it causes AIDS.

Imet Gallo at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health in the early 1970s. His work in vi­rol­ogy and mine in im­munol­ogy some­times over­lapped. Then, as now, he was a fast talker and an even faster thinker. You could learn more about vi­rol­ogy in a 15-minute con­ver­sa­tion with him than in 100 hours of read­ing. He re­minded me of some of the guys in my old neigh­bor­hood in Ben­son­hurst, Brook­lyn — cocky, ef­fu­sive, whip-smart, some­times pro­fane.

Gallo is a proud first-gen­er­a­tion Ital­ian Amer­i­can born to im­mi­grant par­ents in Water­bury, Conn. He was inspired to go into medicine by his sis­ter’s death from child­hood leukemia, and he was trained as a physi­cian be­fore turn­ing to his true pas­sion, ba­sic re­search.

In 1976, he and his col­leagues dis­cov­ered a sub­stance that en­abled sci­en­tists to grow and study key white blood cells, called T-cells. That, in turn, led to his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of hu­man T-lym­photropic virus type 1 — the first virus linked to cer­tain hu­man leukemias and lym­phomas— and ul­ti­mately to his co-dis­cov­ery of HIV. In 1983, French re­searchers first iden­ti­fied the virus, but Gallo proved defini­tively that it causes AIDS. Fur­ther­more, he rapidly pi­o­neered the de­vel­op­ment of the HIV blood test for iden­ti­fy­ing in­fected in­di­vid­u­als and pro­tect­ing the blood sup­ply.

For his work, Gallo has twice been awarded the pres­ti­gious Lasker Award, the Amer­i­can equiv­a­lent of the No­bel Prize. He is one of the most cre­ative bio­med­i­cal re­search sci­en­tists and im­pres­sive in­tel­lects of my gen­er­a­tion. I am proud to count him as a col­league and friend.

We have a long tra­di­tion of meet­ing for din­ner at an Ital­ian res­tau­rant — Posi­tano’s in Bethesda is among our fa­vorites— where we share a bot­tle of pinot gri­gio and talk about science. He main­tains the en­thu­si­asm of a grad­u­ate stu­dent and can make our con­ver­sa­tions feel like they did so many years ago when we were young sci­en­tists at NIH.

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