Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, a Parisian scientist, is renowned for identifying HIV as the root cause of the immunodeficiency illness, AIDS.
As a child, her fascination for the natural world was immense and she would spend hours outdoors, captivated by nature. Barré-Sinoussi's enthusiasm for science throughout her school years was evident and in 1966, she earned her bachelor's degree. At that time, she was undecided between a career in medicine or the biomedical sciences.
Ultimately, she made up her mind to pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Paris' Faculty of Sciences. She made her decision based on the practical concern that a degree in the natural sciences was shorter in duration and less expensive than a degree in medicine, wanting to avoid adding extra financial stress to her family.
Barré-Sinoussi later completed postdoctoral research at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, before earning a Ph.D. (1975) at the Pasteur Institute in Garches, France. She began working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1975, and in 1996 she was named head of the division's Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit.
In 1983, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montaigner found a retrovirus attacking lymphocytes, a kind of blood cell vital to the body's immune system, in patients with enlarged lymph nodes. Retroviruses are RNA-based viruses that can insert their genes into the DNA of their host cells. The retrovirus, which was soon identified as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), was shown to be the root cause of AIDS. This discovery has been essential in significantly improving treatment options for AIDS sufferers.
In 2008, she was a co-recipient, with Luc Montagnier and Harald zur Hausen, of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.
Her significant contributions have made it possible for millions of HIV-positive individuals to enjoy long, healthy lives and may soon bring us closer to a cure.