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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Woman of the Week - Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

Posted March 21, 2017 9:27 AM by lmno24

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is a French virologist who has performed significant work in the identification of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS.

She identifies herself as a scientist-activist, as she has not only discovered the disease, but she is also committed to fighting for the rights of the patients with the disease and fighting against the spread.

She was born in France in 1947, and from the start, always took an interest in the natural world.

In 1966, she entered the University of Paris to study natural science. During her studies, she was eager to gain lab experience. She began as a volunteer.

Jean-Claude Chermann, who recruited her to the lab, was studying the relationship between retroviruses and cancers in mice and proposed to her a PhD project to study the retroviral activity of a synthetic molecule (HPA23) in leukemia induced by the Friend virus in mice. Tests proved effective and Barré-Sinoussi earned her PhD in 1974.

She then spent a year on a post-doctoral project at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. before returning to France to get married and to take up the offer of a research position in Chermann's laboratory in Paris working in the department led, at the time, by Professor Luc Montagnier. This research group continued to study the link between retroviruses and cancers, as by this time oncogenes were attracting more attention. They were one of a few groups who studied this.

She also joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the early 1970s. AIDS started to appear in the 1980s around the world, including in France. The Institut Pasteur team was approached by a group of French clinicians to investigate whether this new disease could be caused by a retrovirus.

She first observed evidence of reverse transcriptase activity in a culture of infected lymph node tissue from a patient. As this activity declined over time, the addition of fresh lymphocytes in the culture would make it reappear.

The retrovirus they had discovered was later named human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

After visiting Africa as part of a World Health Organisation workshop in 1985, Barré-Sinoussi became determined to fight for her scientific cause on a global scale, starting collaborative efforts, and scientific exchanges with African and Asian countries.

She has had many recent research contributions to various aspects of the adaptive immune response to viral infection, the role of innate immune defenses of the host in controlling HIV/AIDS, factors involved in mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and characteristics that allow a small percentage of HIV-positive individuals.

She has co-authored hundreds of scientific publications, has participated in over 250 international conferences, and has trained many young researchers.

In 2006, Barré-Sinoussi was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. She has also received numerous other awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. She shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Luc Montagnier for their co-discovery of HIV, and with Harald zur Hausen, who discovered the viral cause of cervical cancer that led to the development of the HPV vaccine.

In 2009, she wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI in protest over his statements that condoms are ineffective in the AIDS crisis. In addition to her scientific work, she remains a strong voice for health and ending shame associated with the disease, as well as helping to educate people about preventing the spread.



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