The novelty and intrinsic importance of retroviruses have been underlined by the award of Nobel Prizes on no less than three separate occasions. The immense significance of the discovery by Peyton Rous in 1911 that a malignant sarcoma of chickens could be transmitted by a cell-free filtrate containing an infectious virus was belatedly recognized by the award of a Nobel Prize in 1966, more than half a century later. Equally controversial initially was the iconoclastic proposal by Howard Temin that genetic information could flow "against the tide," from RNA to DNA, which was confirmed unequivocally by the subsequent discovery in 1970, independently by Temin and David Baltimore, of the enzyme reverse transcriptase in retroviruses, for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1975. Among other things, this enzyme has underpinned many of the subsequent spectacular advances in recombinant DNA technology and genetic engineering. Michael Bishop and Harold Var-mus received the Nobel Prize in 1989 for the discovery of oncogenes and their role in oncogenic viruses and in cancer generally. In 1980 Bob Gallo and colleagues described the first human retrovirus, the cause of a form of adult T-cell leukemia, and in 1984 Gallo was also instrumental in confirming and extending the discovery by Luc Montagnier of the causal agent of the devastating pandemic of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS),
The threat posed by AIDS has triggered an unprecedented effort, by research scientists and governments alike, to understand and conquer this disease. We already know more about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) than about any of the viruses of longer standing. Indeed, HIV now sets the pace in virus research Many outstanding virologists have moved across to HIV, and new concepts and techniques pioneered by HIV virologists in every area of the discipline—from regulation of viral replication, through molecular pathogenesis, to laboratory diagnostic methods and novel approaches to antiviral therapy and vaccinology—now represent the gold standard to which others aspire
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