Luc Montagnier studied viruses, the immune system, and cancer in France during the second half of the twentieth century. In his early career, Montagnier studied how cancer-causing viruses replicate and infect host cells. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for his team’s discovery that a retrovirus, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is a chronic condition that results from HIV infection and damages the immune system. People who have AIDS typically experience increased vulnerability to a variety of diseases. Before Montagnier’s research on the virus, the exact cause of AIDS remained unknown to researchers and healthcare professionals. Beyond discovering HIV as the cause of AIDS, Montagnier’s work advanced a general understanding of how viral infection affects the immune system of the host organism.
Ian Hector Frazer studied the human immune system and vaccines in Brisbane, Australia, and helped invent and patent the scientific process and technology behind what later became the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US, or CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and can lead to genital warts, as well as cervical, head, mouth, and neck cancers. Frazer and virologist Jian Zhou conducted research in the 1990s to assess why women with HPV had higher rates of precancerous and cancerous cervical cells. Frazer’s research led the pharmaceutical company Merck to produce the Gardasil vaccination series, and GlaxoSmithKline to produce the Cervarix vaccination. Frazer’s research contributed to the development of HPV vaccinations that have been successful in reducing up to seventy percent of cervical cancer cases in women.