Gallo, Robert C.

Gallo, Robert C. (Charles)

(1937–  ) medical scientist; born in Waterbury, Conn. Inspired to do medical research after his sister's death from childhood leukemia, he graduated from Providence (R.I.) College (1954) and then from Jefferson Medical College (Philadelphia) (1963). He became an investigator at the National Cancer Institute (Maryland) in 1965 and was named chief of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology in 1972. In 1978 he identified the first retrovirus to be found in humans, the HTLV-1, linked to leukemia, for which he won the Lasker Award. When the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first recognized in the early 1980s, he immediately set about to identify its cause. In a 1984 paper, he claimed to have discovered and isolated the HIV retrovirus; for this and for developing a test to detect the AIDS virus in the blood system, he shared another Lasker Award (1986). His co-sharer was Luc Montagnier, a French researcher at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, who claimed that in fact he and his staff had first identified the virus and the test. In 1987 Gallo and Montagnier reached a legal compromise on their claims, but in January 1993 a professional review committee found Gallo guilty of "scientific misconduct" in his 1984 claims of priority. Gallo continued to defend himself from all such charges, but even his supporters agreed that his well-known reputation for asserting and advancing himself was at least part of his image problem.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.