Françoise Barré-Sinoussi was born in Paris in 1947 and obtained her doctorate degree from the Sciences University in Paris in 1974, followed by post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. She joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the early 1970s, where her attention quickly turned to a particular group of viruses known as the retroviruses. An outstanding leader in that field for many years, Senoussi is currently Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit and Professor of Virology at the Institut Pasteur. Her laboratory is involved, among other things, in studies on the impact of the host’s innate defenses in controlling HIV/AIDS, as well as mother to child transmission.
Professor Senoussi is most noted for her role in the initial identification of HIV-1, the virus which causes AIDS. Her work is highly cited in the scientific literature, and she is particularly recognized as the first author of the famous 1983 publication that reported the discovery of the retrovirus HLV, which was later re-named HIV-1, in an AIDS patient. This discovery did not only pave the way for the development of blood tests to screen out blood donors, but also led directly to rapid methods to diagnose HIVinfected individuals, as well as methods to screen potential drug candidates for anti-HIV activity. Senoussi carried out fundamental research on the impact of the host’s innate defenses in controlling AIDS and on mother-to-child transmission.
Senoussi initiated – since the 1980s – collaborative research in developing countries where she managed multidisciplinary networks that helped establish centers for training on the diagnosis and control of AIDS in several African and Asian countries such as Tunisia, Cambodia and Vietnam. She has been constantly and deeply committed to establishing permanent links between basic research and clinical research with the aim of achieving concrete improvements in the areas of prevention, clinical care and treatment of AIDS. However, her scientific contributions are not limited to the discovery of the AIDS virus (HIV-1). Over the past 25 years, she also participated actively in studies of other retroviruses, while being at the forefront of HIV vaccine and prevention research.
Throughout her career, Professor Senoussi strived to bring together research, public health and teaching. She authored or co-authored more than 320 scientific publications. She has also been constantly sought to share her knowledge, and has given numerous invited lectures, participated in over 250 international conferences and trained many young researchers. Senoussi also contributes actively to scientific societies and committees both at the Institut Pasteur and at other AIDS organizations, such as the National Agency for AIDS Research in France. She also served as consultant to the WHO and UNAIDS-HIV and is an elected member of the New York Academy of Science.
Senoussi was a co-winner of the 1993 King Faisal International Prize for Medicine for her role in the discovery of the HIV virus. Fifteen years later, she was selected co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Her outstanding contributions were recognized by more than 10 other national and international prizes, in addition to other honors, including France’s Chevalier of the Order of Merit (1990), Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (1996), Officer of the Order of Merit (2002) and Officer of the Legion of Honor (2006). In 2007, she was inducted by the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame for her accomplishments in AIDS research. In 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Tulane University. She was elected to become the President of the International AIDS Society in 2012.
Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Professor Luc Montagnier, Dr. Jean-Claud Chermann, have been awarded the prize of Medicine,
In 1983 the team discovered the AIDS virus. The following year they described the way in which the HIV 1 virus attaches to certain white blood cells that are normally involved in the cellular response to infection by many types of bacteria & fungi, and protozoa. Later they showed that HIV 1 progressively destroys all the victims’ CD4+ cells with the result that they are no longer able to combat infections or cancer.
Through extensive field work, the group demonstrated the spread of the disease in central Africa as a result of sexual transmission.
In 1986 the team described a second but less virulent retrovirus which is responsible for AIDS in West Africa. This retrovirus has come to be known as HIV 2. The discovery of HIV 1 and 2 has opened the way to the development of diagnostic methods for AIDS and its prodromal syndrome.