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UMSOM Institute of Human Virology's Robert Gallo Awarded Italy's Magna Graecia International Prize

December 18, 2020 | Nora Samaranayake

Robert C. Gallo, MD

Robert 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 Italy’s “Magna Graecia International Prize,” an award created in 1997 by the Magna Graecia Foundation that is bestowed to the most influential Italians and Italians of origin who have embodied and symbolized, in the most diverse sectors, the best qualities of Italy by extending Italian culture beyond national borders.

“I am honored to award the Prize to a Magna Graecia son, to a man who inherits in his genes the highest values of Western culture,” said Hon. Nino Foti, President of the Magna Graecia Foundation.

“Dr. Robert Gallo's contribution to the whole of humanity derives precisely from his roots in Magna Graecia, the ancient incubator of Western civilization and medical science were figures of gigantic proportion such as Alcmeone and Pythagoras laid the foundations of the Krotonian school of medicine and the Italic Pythagorean School, respectively. It was these two geniuses who with their revolutions covered the birth of science and sprouted the bud of the human personality, an indication of a new approach to investigation and research, a rational anxiety aimed at the love of knowledge and the renaissance of nature. 

"The innate feeling of the state of health animated the desire to understand the morbid phenomena and the causes that generated them. ‘Knowing oneself,’ as Socrates liked to repeat, through the modern exploration of origins is certainly a goal worth fighting for.  Dr. Robert Gallo is the living testimony inherited from this origin in the past, the legacy of those ancient experiences, a monumental knowledge that today helps us to understand the profound meaning of one’s own attitude towards life, death and destiny”.

Previous awardees include the President of the Argentine Republic Mauricio Macri, the Governor of the State of New York George Pataki, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Canada Sergio Marchi, the Argentine Minister of Tourism Francisco Mayorga, the Chairman and CEO of Grupo Globo - the largest mass media group in Brasil and Latin America - Roberto Irineu Marinho, the President of Mediaset - the largest mass media company and commercial broadcaster in Italy – Fedele Confalonieri, the Dean of Central University of Venezuela Giannetto Pace, former U.S. Congressman and NIAF National Italian American Foundation Chairman Hon. Frank Guarini, the Dean of Rio de Janeiro State University Nilcea Freire, the Italian State Accountant Andrea Monorchio, the President of Columbus Citizen Foundation Louis Tallarini, the director-screenwriter and film producer Oscar prize Giuseppe Tornatore, the songwriter and record producer Tony Renis, the Commissioner Fire Department of New York Daniel Nigro and the playwright and seven Tony Awards winner Mario Fratti.  Last year, the Prize was awarded to the physicist Federico Faggin, inventor of the microchip and father of the touchscreen. A special career recognition has been given to Fulvio Lucisano, film producer and founder of the IIF Italian International Film.

“The award bestowed upon Dr. Gallo by the Foundation is given in recognition of his prolific and magnificent contributions to the science of virology,” said Arthur J. Gajarsa, senior counsel at WilmerHale and member of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Board of Advisors.  “But he is also a humanist whose scientific research in the field has saved thousands of lives in all parts of the world. This award also recognizes his family roots in Italy of which Dr. Gallo is very proud.”

Robert Gallo, MD“It is with heartfelt appreciation that I accept this honor because not only is it a privilege, the recognition has personal meaning since a significant part of my family comes from the region of Calabria and Puglia,” said Dr. Robert Gallo.  “I truly love this part of Italy, in particular, Sicily and its island.  I also enjoy ancient Greek mythologies and ancient cultures of southern Italy.”

Since 1996, Dr. Gallo has been Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology and Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is also the Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Co-Founder and International Science Advisor of the Global Virus Network (GVN).

Previously (for 30 years) he was at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, MD. While at NCI, he and his co-workers discovered interleukin-2 (Il-2) in 1976. Il-2 was the first cytokine (“messenger” molecule that allows cells to communicate and alter one another’s function) and proved to be a major tool for immunology and the discovery of all human retroviruses.

Dr. Gallo and his colleagues then opened and pioneered human retrovirology with the discovery of the first human retrovirus (HTLV-1) and, along with Japanese investigators, showed it was a cause of a particular form of human leukemia.

A year later, he and his group discovered the second known human retrovirus (HTLV-2). Dr. Gallo and his colleagues also co-independently discovered HIV, provided the first results showing that HIV was the cause of AIDS, and developed the life-saving HIV blood test. In 1986, he and his colleagues discovered human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6), the first new herpes virus found in more than 25 years, and in 1995 discovered the first endogenous inhibitors of HIV, namely some of the beta chemokines. This helped find the HIV co-receptor, CCR5, and opened up entirely new approaches to the treatment of HIV disease.

Dr. Gallo has been awarded 35 honorary doctorates from 12 countries, is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Medicine) and is a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He is also the recipient of numerous worldwide scientific honors and awards.  According to the Institute for Scientific Information, Dr. Gallo was the most cited scientist in the world 1980-1990, and he was ranked third in the world for scientific impact for the period 1983-2002. He has published close to 1,300 papers.

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 and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 45 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.2 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has more than $563 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 student trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact more than $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit


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