Peeved 'retiree' off to US

May 16, 1997

DISGUSTED with a "stupid rule" which is forcing him to retire, the French scientist who first isolated the HIV virus in 1983 is to head a new research centre on Aids and other "emergent diseases" at Queen's College, New York.

Queen's College has created a chair for Luc Montagnier, who will teach there part-time and continue for the time being to run his Paris laboratory. His Paris office says some $4.5 million has already been donated from private sources and $15 million has been promised from public funds.

Professor Montagnier chaired the protest committee set up earlier this year when, in a brutal cost-cutting exercise, 100 distinguished researchers got notice to quit at 65 instead of continuing until the age of 68, the normal retirement age for top-echelon scientists.

"A stupid rule on retirement age is forcing me to stop heading my laboratory in two years' time, although I feel fully able to fulfil my functions there," said Professor Montagnier, 64. His disgust at his forced departure is widely believed to be compounded with disappointment that the Pasteur Institute has never rewarded his work with a directorship.

Probably France's best-known scientist, Professor Montagnier set up an international foundation for Aids research and prevention with Federico Mayor, director general of Unesco, in 1993. The foundation will set up its third centre at Queen's College, which will also work on Alzheimer's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

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