Jean-Claude Chermann was born in Paris, France, in 1939, and obtained his doctoral degree from the College of Science at the University of Paris, followed by postdoctoral training in Switzerland, Sweden and the United States. He taught for many years and was a Deputy Director of Research at the Medical University in Western Paris. He spent 25 years at the Pasteur Institute, where he became the Director of Research at INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research). He also held the position of Director of Research of Unit INSERM U322 on “Retrovirus and Associated Diseases”.
Professor Chermann carried out pioneering research on retroviruses and their mechanisms of transmission. He participated in landmark studies on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in collaboration with Luc Montagnier and Françoise Barré-Senoussi. These three French scientists are noted for their groundbreaking success in isolating and characterizing the human retrovirus (HIV-1) responsible for AIDS in 1983. The following year, they described how that virus attached to certain white blood cells (CD4+ cells) normally involved in cellular immune responses to various pathogenic infections. Subsequently, they showed that HIV-1 progressively destroyed patients’ CD4+ cells with the result that they no longer were able to combat infections and malignancies. The group also discovered a second type of HIV Virus (HIV-2) which causes human immunodeficiency in Africa.
Professor Chermann authored or co-authored more than 300 scientific papers. Beside the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, his scientific and medical contributions were recognized by several other awards, including the French Order of Merit, as well as election to a number of prestigious scientific and medical societies.
In June 2001 he took up his current position as Chief Scientific Director of URRMA Biopharma based in Montreal, Canada, and Director of URRMA Research and Development branch, based in Aubagne, France. He is also a member of the Scientific Boards of Ethlon Foundation in California.
Dr. Jean-Claud Chermann, Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Professor Luc Montagnier, have been awarded the prize of Medicine.
In 1983 the team discovered the AIDS virus. The following year they described the way in which the HIV 1 virus attaches to certain white blood cells that are normally involved in the cellular response to infection by many types of bacteria & fungi, and protozoa. Later they showed that HIV 1 progressively destroys all the victims’ CD4+ cells with the result that they are no longer able to combat infections or cancer.
Through extensive field work, the group demonstrated the spread of the disease in central Africa as a result of sexual transmission.
In 1986 the team described a second but less virulent retrovirus which is responsible for AIDS in West Africa. This retrovirus has come to be known as HIV 2. The discovery of HIV 1 and 2 has opened the way to the development of diagnostic methods for AIDS and its prodromal syndrome.