And the Band Played On

by Randy Shilts

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According to And the Band Played On, what was Dr. Gallo's motivation for discovering the retro virus?

Dr. Gallo was attempting to find a cure for leukemia at the National Cancer Institute when he isolated the retrovirus HTLV-I. It later emerged that the retrovirus had already been discovered by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France.

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Dr. Robert C. Gallo was a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, who was working on a cure for leukemia when he isolated the retrovirus HTLV-I. Precisely what happened at this time remains controversial, and the controversy resurfaced decades later when Dr. Gallo was omitted from the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine, for the discovery of HIV. Randy Shilts, in his 1987 bestselling book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, gives the following account.

French researchers at the Pasteur Institute had already isolated the retrovirus when they approached Dr. Gallo to collaborate with them. A representative was sent from the Pasteur Institute to the National Cancer Institute to compare samples French samples of HIV with those that had arisen in America. However, the representative in question had a grudge against the French researchers and sabotaged the experiment by switching the samples. This led Dr. Gallo to believe that he was discovering for the first time the retrovirus he isolated from the French samples.

In the same year that Shilts published his account, the National Institutes of Health reached an out-of-court settlement with the Pasteur Institute on the dispute as to whether the retrovirus had been an independent discovery. Four years later, Gallo admitted that the sample he claimed to have discovered came from France, but the precise details remain obscure.

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