The US scientist feted as the co-discoverer of HIV the virus associated with AIDS has been found guilty of "scientific misconduct".
Robert Gallo, head of a laboratory at the US National Cancer Institute, deliberately concealed experiments which would have revealed that French scientists had discovered HIV a year earlier than he claimed to do, according to the findings of an inquiry.
The Office of Research Integrity in the US Department of Health and Human Services also found him guilty of a "propensity to misrepresent and mislead in favour of his own research findings" and says that his quest for scientific glory "had the potential to impede the rapid advancement of research efforts" to identify the AIDS virus.
An earlier investigation had already criticized him for gross failures of scientific etiquette and poor laboratory management.
Gallo, however, says the ORI is victimizing him for "trivial mistakes" and plans to appeal. Apart from the cost to his reputation, the verdict jeopardizes the $100,000 in royalties that Gallo and a colleague have received since 1987 for their work in developing the HIV test.
Meanwhile, French scientists at the Pasteur Institute, considered up until now Gallo's "co-discoverers", are claiming the ORI's finding vindicates their claim to be the true discoverers of HIV and that they are entitled to all the royalties arising from use of the test, and not just half, which they have received up until now.
Dr Luc Montagnier, head of the Pasteur research team, has gone on record to say that HIV is not the sole cause of AIDS, but requires a "co-factor" to develop into full blown illness.