Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, a French researcher, was in Phnom Penh on Monday when she learned she was to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery in 1985 of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.
“It’s a moving moment for me, all the more moving that I received the news in Cambodia,” Barre-Sinoussi said at a reception in her honor at the French Embassy.
“Despite this prize, I will always be here to work in cooperation with this country, which is dear to me,” she added.
Barre-Sinoussi, who has long worked in cooperation projects between France and Cambodia and makes frequent trips here, shares the Nobel prize with her French co-researcher Luc Montagnier and German researcher Harald Zur Hausen for his work on cervical cancer.
Speaking about current AIDS research, Barre-Sinoussi, who directs a research laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said much still needs to be done.
“There is still an enormous, enormous amount of research to do, even extremely basic research,” she said. “Is a vaccine possible, yes or no? I cannot answer that question today.”
Barre-Sinoussi said she was attending the biannual Cambodge Sante conference at the University of Health Sciences in Phnom Penh on Monday when she was inadvertently informed of her prize by a journalist who telephoned from France asking for comment.
“It proves that French cooperation in Cambodia seeks to offer the best and that in fact, we do not have a discounted cooperation; we do the best cooperation possible,” French Ambassador Jean-Francois Desmazieres said.
“We don’t send students; we send the masters,” he said.