Robert Charles Gallo (/ˈɡɑːloʊ/; born March 23, 1937) is an American biomedical researcher. He is best known for his role in the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the infectious agent responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and in the development of the HIV blood test, and he has been a major contributor to subsequent HIV research.
Gallo is the director and co-founder of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, established in 1996 in a partnership including the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. In November 2011, Gallo was named the first Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine. Gallo is also a co-founder of biotechnology company Profectus BioSciences, Inc. and co-founder and scientific director of the Global Virus Network (GVN).
Gallo was born in Waterbury, Connecticut to a working-class family of Italian immigrants.He earned a BS degree in Biology in 1959 from Providence College and received an MD from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963. After completing his medical residency at the University of Chicago, he became a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, where he worked for 30 years, mainly as head of the Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology.
Gallo states that his choice of profession was influenced by the early death of his sister from leukemia, a disease to which he initially dedicated much of his research.
On May 4, 1984, Gallo and his collaborators published a series of four papers in the scientific journal Science demonstrating that a retrovirus they had isolated, called HTLV-III in the belief that the virus was related to the leukemia viruses of Gallo’s earlier work, was the cause of AIDS.A French team at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, led by Luc Montagnier, had published a paper in Science in 1983, describing a retrovirus they called LAV (lymphadenopathy associated virus), isolated from a patient at risk for AIDS.
Gallo was awarded his second Lasker Award in 1986 for “determining that the retrovirus now known as HIV-1 is the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).” He is the only recipient of two Lasker Awards. In 1986, Gallo, Dharam Ablashi, and Syed Zaki Salahuddin discovered human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), later found to cause Roseola infantum, an infantile disease.
In 1991, following years of controversy surrounding a 1987 out of court settlement between the National Institutes of Health and France’s Pasteur Institute, Gallo admitted the virus he claimed to have discovered in 1984 was in reality a virus sent to him from France the year before, putting an end to a six-year effort by Gallo and his employer, the National Institutes of Health, to claim the AIDS virus as an independent discovery.
In 1995, Gallo with his colleagues Paolo Lusso and Fiorenza Cocchi published their discovery that chemokines, a class of naturally occurring compounds, are potent and specific HIV inhibitors. This discovery was heralded by Science magazine as one of the top scientific breakthroughs of the year.The role chemokines play in controlling the progression of HIV infection has influenced thinking on how AIDS works against the human immune system and led to a class of drugs used to treat HIV, the chemokine antagonists or entry inhibitors, and helped (conceptually) in the advances that led to the discovery of the cell co-receptor for HIV infection, because this is the molecule the HIV inhibitory molecules bind.
Gallo and two longtime scientific collaborators, Robert R. Redfield and William A. Blattner, founded the Institute of Human Virology in 1996. Gallo’s team at the institute maintain an ongoing program of scientific research and clinical care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, treating more than 5,000 patients in Baltimore and 500,000 patients at institute-supported clinics in Africa and the Caribbean. In July 2007, Gallo and his team were awarded a $15 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for research into a preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Additionally, in 2011 Gallo and his team received $23.4 million from a consortium of funding sources to support the next phase of research into the Institute of Human Virology’s (IHV) promising HIV/AIDS preventive vaccine candidate. The IHV vaccine program grants included $16.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $2.2 million from the U.S. Army’s Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), and other research funding from a variety of sources including the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)