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Robert Gallo of the UM School of Medicine Institute of Human Virology and Global Virus Network Awarded Top Life Sciences and Medicine Prize from China

December 21, 2020 | Nora Samaranayake

Dr. Gallo, in 2005, during one of his many visits to China

Robert C. Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, co-founder and director of the Institute Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-founder and international scientific advisor of the Global Virus Network, was awarded the “VCANBIO Award for Biosciences and Medicine,” a significant and authoritative award in the life sciences and medicine field of China.

The elite Prize is jointly presented by the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the VCANBIO CELL & GENE ENGINEERING CORP, LTD to push forward scientific research, technological innovation and continuous development in the life sciences and medicine field of China.

George F. Gao*“The Prize also serves to facilitate the industrial development and application of innovative life science achievements,” said George F. Gao, DVM, DPHIL (OXON), Director General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), Director, CAS Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Professor, Institute of Microbiology, Dean of the Medical School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Director of China’s Global Virus Network Center of Excellence. “Dr. Gallo is a pioneer in virus research and most worthy of this Prize.  We are pleased to see him recognized by many members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”

“Hosted by the Medical School of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, this award commends outstanding and innovative Chinese and foreign scientists, who have accomplished innovation achievements and breakthroughs in the life sciences and medicine field,” said Yiming Shao, MD, the Chief Expert on AIDS, China CDC, Director of the Division of Research on Virology and Immunology, National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, China and Member of the GVN SARS-CoV-2 Task Force and China GVN.  “I have worked with Dr. Gallo through the decades and admire his intellect and leadership, which have led to discoveries that have broad implications in protecting mankind from viral threats.  I am delighted that my Chinese colleagues are recognizing him with this significant honor.”

“Prof. Gallo has made a great deal of contribution to promote the Sino-American friendship and collaboration, especially for medical talent training and public health in China,” said Prof. Guanhua Xu, Chairman of the selection committee of the VCANBIO Award for Biosciences and Medicine.

“This is a tremendous and well-deserved honor for Dr. Gallo,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.  “Dr. Gallo has dedicated his career to building international collaborations that have produced major scientific discoveries in human virology, including with leading scientists and academic colleagues in China. As a result, the Institute of Human Virology continues to be recognized as the global leader in the fight against chronic viral diseases.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive this esteemed Prize from my colleagues in China,” said Dr. Robert Gallo.  “I take this opportunity to stress that it is imperative that government and politics not interfere with science, and that my Chinese and American colleagues, who have a long history of collaborating together and contributing scientific breakthroughs to protect humanity from global health threats, continue to have the freedom to do so and to grow these collaborations.”

A Distinguished Scientific Career Advancing Global Health

Dr. Robert Gallo has long believed in the necessity of international cooperation and collaboration in medical sciences in general, and infectious diseases in particular, in part to build global friendships and advance humanitarian principles. Though entertainment and sports facilitate such connections he believes the “knots” are tied best through medical sciences. Throughout his 30 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and more recently his nearly 25 years at Baltimore’s Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he has fostered these connections. 

First, through his pioneering scientific discoveries including his discovery in 1976 of Interleukin-2, the first cytokine, a growth regulating substance now used as immune therapy in some cancers and in autoimmune diseases when suppressive T cells are needed.  Then in 1980, the first human retrovirus, HTLV-1, a cause of human leukemia and paralytic neurological diseases as well as severe inflammatory disorders, which is endemic in some regions such as parts of Africa, the Caribbean Islands, Japan, Aboriginal Australians, Iran and South America. Dr. Gallo and his team developed a blood test for HTLV-1 applicable to all countries which protect people receiving blood transfusions that would be contaminated with this virus.

Similarly, in 1984, when he and his team co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS they also developed the HIV blood test for the world and made their reagents available to all.  Dr. Gallo and his team established collaborations in HIV/AIDS research, education, therapy and care for many African countries, particularly in Nigeria and some Caribbean nations. During the current pandemic, he quickly became involved in initiating preventive measures against SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 disease through the idea of stimulating innate immunity with “live” virus vaccines such as the oral polio vaccine.

Dr. Gallo, abetted by his collaborator, Konstantin Chumakov, PhD, Associate Director for Research for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Vaccines Research and Review and a GVN Center Director and his clinical colleague, Shyam Kottilil, MBBS, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Care and Research Division of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and senior advisor at the GVN, are advising on trials in India and in discussion about trials in Mexico, Brazil, Uzbekistan and China. He has also fostered the international nature of his research by hosting students beyond the U.S., including post-doctoral senior scientists from Asia, Middle East, Europe, the Americas and many African nations.

Global Virus NetworkHowever, nothing demonstrates his concern for medical science cooperation more than when he established the idea for the Global Virus Network (GVN), which he co-founded in 2011 with the late Prof. Reinhard Kurth, MD, formerly Director of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, and Prof. William Hall, BSc, PhD, MD, DTMH, of University College Dublin. Now, GVN is headed by its President Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD.  The GVN was formed to advance medical and zoological science without any government influence, giving members of the GVN maximum freedom to speak freely while encouraging all nations to be involved. China, among several dozen other countries, has an active Center of Excellence within the GVN and was the site of the 7th meeting of the GVN in May 2015 held in Beijing and hosted by the late GVN Center Director, Zeng Yi of Beijing University of Technology. Experts shared information on varying viral threats, including those causing hemorrhagic fevers, hepatitis, HIV, measles, influenza, dengue and chikungunya, to name a few. GVN members also reviewed strategies at the center of the organization including the creation of specialized task forces and the launch of training programs to address growing viral threats.

A History with Chinese-American Collaborations

Dr. Gallo had a deep friendship with Dr. Robert Ting who came to the U.S. as a child refugee from Shanghai during the Japanese invasion. As a student, Dr. Ting worked with the famous Italian molecular biologist, Dr. Salvatore Luria at MIT, who won a Nobel Prize. Dr. Ting then went to Caltech to work with another Italian Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Renato Dulbecco and they were joined by two others who were soon to be Nobel Prize winners, Drs. Howard Temin and David Baltimore. Dr. Ting was not just Dr. Gallo’s friend but also his teacher by introducing him to Chinese culture and food, tennis, and the field of virology. Soon after meeting Dr. Ting, another Chinese-born and educated young man, Dr. Alan Wu, came to Dr. Gallo’s lab from Toronto bringing with him the knowledge and skills of blood stem cells. There were then several other Chinese post-doctoral fellows culminating with Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal from Canton Province and who played a very major role in advancing molecular biology on Dr. Gallo’s team for about 15 years. Dr. Nancy Chang, also Chinese, came as a visiting scientist on a few occasions. On one such time she was key to the development of the second-generation HIV blood test used around the world.

In 2009, with the help of a University of Maryland School of Medicine colleague, Dr. Richard Zhao, born in China and educated in the U.S., the Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) announced the establishment of the Shandong Gallo Institute of Virology (SGIV). The announcement was made simultaneously with a ceremony to establish China’s first Molecular Diagnostic Center for Personalized Healthcare (MDCPH), which was a joint venture among the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific and SGIV at the Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences. The mission of the SGIV is to promote the basic science of virology especially in the area of HIV/AIDS and other important and emerging viral diseases and to facilitate translational research and clinical trials for related diseases. SGIV also aims to provide molecular-based testing for disease diagnosis, prognosis and treatment in the area of individualized molecular testing for personalized medicine.

Since the founding of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV), Dr. Gallo notes that several of his key science leaders at the Institute of Human Virology came from China, including: Dr. Wuyuan Lu (recent Director of the Division of Infectious Agents and Cancer), Dr. Yang Liu (recent Director of the Division of Immunotherapy), Dr. Pan Zheng (Division of Immunotherapy), Dr. Lishan Su (current Director of the Division of Virology, Pathogenesis and Cancer), Dr. Man Charurat (current Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention and Ciheb) and Dr. Lai-Xi Wang (formerly at IHV and now at University of Maryland, College Park).  With each of these leaders also came labs full of Chinese colleagues, who Dr. Gallo states contributed greatly to advancing America’s biomedical research.  Further, over the past six decades, Dr. Gallo visited China countless times to discuss potential collaborations with public and private sector entities, mentored rising Chinese scientists and facilitated open scientific discussions to advance the field of human virology, among other important things.

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland, and the University of Maryland Medical System, the IHV is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is home to some of the most globally-recognized and world-renowned experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology, and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders - most notably, HIV the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, visit www.ihv.org and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN) 

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 59 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 33 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews 

*Photo of George Gao courtesy of 中国新闻网, CC BY 3.0, Link

Contact

Institute of Human Virology
Nora Samaranayake
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(410) 706-8614 (phone)
(410) 706-1952 (fax)
nsamaranayake@ihv.umaryland.edu

Nora Samaranayake
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
(410) 706-8614 (phone)
(410) 706-1952 (fax)
nsamaranayake@ihv.umaryland.edu

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