Science, Tech & Environment

The Nobel Prize

(The fact that Robert Gallo, the American, did not receive the prize�is he right to be upset?) It comes down to what you think Alfred Nobel wanted with the prize, which has always stirred controversy over the issue of why people are being awarded. Is it for a discovery that opened up new scientific avenues or is it for a practical thing? (And Gallo follows in the latter category?) As with most scientific discoveries, there's a tangled history here. The French scientists published the first paper describing the virus in 1983. but a year later, Gallo's lab published four labs showing that that virus was the cause of AIDS, which the French lab didn't write. In 1984, the world was terrified by this epidemic and the blood test was the first real handle on how to identify it. so these labs in many ways worked together. And one of the French researchers trained in Gallo's lab as well. That's what reignited this whole debate. (What has been the trajectory of understanding AIDS since those early days?) In 1981, five gay men in LA get sick from this weird disease and no one can figure it out, and then it was thought to be a gay disease. Then heterosexuals in Africa got sick from it so it becomes clear it's not a gay disease, but it's primarily killing people in Africa. The whole disease has been reconceived again and again. So medicine has moved at an incredibly rapid pace to figure out the causes of the disease and to help stop the spread of the disease. So much has happened since 1981, but this is also a very tricky vaccine and the holy grail of the vaccine is still unknown and there isn't a vaccine in sight.

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