The Nobel committee said it had no doubt “as to who had made the fundamental discoveries” concerning H.I.V. Introducing the winners at the award ceremony in Sweden, Professor Björn Bennström, a committee member, said, “Never before had science advanced so quickly from finding the disease-causing agent to anti-viral agents.”
In his acceptance speech, contrary to the views of other AIDS experts, Dr. Montagnier said he believed that H.I.V. relied on other factors to spark full-blown disease. “H.I.V. ,” he said, “is the main cause, but could also be helped by accomplices.” He was referring to other infections, perhaps from bacteria, and a weakened immune system.
By then, AIDS-related illnesses had killed more than 25 million people and an estimated 33 million were living with H.I.V.
After his work with H.I.V., Dr. Montagnier veered into nontraditional experiments, shocking and infuriating many colleagues. One experiment, published in 2009 in a journal he founded, claimed that DNA emitted electromagnetic radiation. He suggested that some bacterial DNA continued to emit signals long after an infection had been cleared.
“He was always controversial, but I had the greatest respect for the team he assembled,” said Donald P. Francis, who directed the AIDS laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and who was one of the first scientists to suggest that AIDS may be caused by an infectious agent.
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In a 2010 interview with Science, Dr. Montagnier defended his theories about DNA, saying: “It’s not quackery. These are real phenomena which deserve further study.” That same year, he accepted a professorship at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai to investigate DNA emissions. He stayed there for about two years before returning to Paris.
Dr. Montagnier set off another uproar among scientists when, speaking at a conference on autism in 2012, he suggested that long-term antibiotics could be successful in treating that illness.