For Peter Duesberg (1984)
Robert C. Gallo
National Cancer Institute, Maryland U.S.A.
is time now to introduce my friend Peter Duesberg. Where do I
begin? At NIH, Peter is sometimes known as the battling bulldog.
He gets his teeth into something and 1 year, 5 years, 10 years,
20 years later those teeth are still sunk in it. I Should be serious
a bit, shouldn't I? Peter, of course, was born here in Germany.
He was educated at Tübingen and he came to the United States
20 years ago at age of 27. I've known Peter now for about 15 years.
When I first met him, he was already doing molecular virology,
and I was already involved in retroviruses. Peter first began
work on the molecular virology of parainfluenza and influenza
viruses. He was the first to show that parainfluenza had a singular
RNA genome and that influenza had multiple RNA's. This was the
first time a virus was shown to have a segmented genome, thus
explaining the rather distinctive ability of that virus to undergo
frequent recombination by reassortment."
working with retroviruses around 1966, and he was among the first,
or perhaps even the very first, to characterise their structural
proteins. He was involved in the first work that provided a genetic
map of retroviruses. Surely, this is one of the most important of
his many biochemical contributions, that is, the order of the genes
gag, pol env, and some aspects of the nature of their nucleotide
sequences. We now know that this fundamental result is applicable
to all retroviruses, including HTLV-I, II, and III. So, the application
of biochemical methods to the mapping of retroviral genes was first
and primarily carried out by Peter. Some of his work also ultimately
became critical to the taxonomy of retroviruses."
out the first restriction endonuclease mapping of a provirus. This
was the first, or one of the first, to demonstate repetetive sequences
at the ends of the proviruses, which were the beginning of our understanding
of the LTRs that we talk about routinely today. He was involved
in the first publications which demonstrated that these viruses
replicate via a circular proviral DNA form. After reverse transcripts
was discovered (it was about that time I began to know Peter fairly
well), Peter did some of the early characterisation of this DNA
polymerase. His publications with his colleagues were the first
reports showing that reverse transcriptase utilised a primer mechanism,
not just a template, but a primer to initiate DNA synthesis, and
he was the first to show that the primer was a 4S molecule. But
actually, although listing this as one as his major accomplishments,
I remember Peter telling me when he did those experiments he didn't
know what a primer actually was!"
major phase of his work involved his classic studies with Peter
Vogt; Vogt the biologist. Peter the biochemist. This really led
to the first molecular and genetically defined transforming gene,
the sarc gene. A great deal of this brilliant and original, the
real critical aspects, was carried out by his extraordinarily effective
collaboration through the 1970's. Of course, Peter also worked on
a number of other onc genes, describing several for the first time,
mostly in avian systems but also in murine systems. Most recently
this has been in collaboration with Takas Papas at NCI."
are some of Peter's contributions. There are many more. However,
there are things about him that stand out as much as his science.
Peter Duesberg is a man of extraordinary energy, unusual honesty,
enormous sense of humour, and a rare critical sense. This critical
sense often makes us look twice, then a third time, at a conclusion
many of us believed to be foregone. However, his critiques are sometimes
a major problem for the casual observer. When is he truly debating?
When is he only being the devil's advocate? When is he being the
devil himself? The casual observer is also often at a loss to determine
which of the many weapons he possesses he is using. Peter, it is
hard for us to tell when you are using your machine gun or your
slingshot, or simply exercising your vocal cords. In any event you
are an extraordinary scientist, a man who makes life more interesting
and pleasurable to many of us: and it is my good from: fortune to
know you as a friend."
Modern Trends in Human Leukemia VI, Haematology and Blood Transfusion
vol.29 p.1, 1985.