Revisiting Etienne de Harven’s claim to fame

In December 2011, Anthony Brink asked Steve Stannard to write Etienne de Harven the first message below. De Harven responded and Stannard followed up – about which Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and Val Turner of the Perth Group were pleased to say:

Dear Steve,

Anthony Brink asked us to assist with your debate with de Harven.

However, it seems to us you are doing very well by yourself. In fact better than we could have done. But if something comes up you would like some help please let us know.

We also enjoyed reading your analysis of Joan Shenton’s documentary.

We would like to thank you very much for your support.

Kind regards,

Eleni Papadopulos, Valendar Turner


Opening communication with Etienne de Harven, 8 December 2011

Dear Professor de Harven

In your email to Brent Leung of 29 August 2011, in which you comprehensively criticized the shortcomings of his recent film The Emperor’s New Virus?, particularly his failure to include your ‘NEW ideas, ideas that completely re-orient HIV/AIDS research’, you remarked:

Should we keep telling everybody that sucrose density gradients at density of 1.16 gr/ml are the best method to purify retroviruses, while by far the best retrovirus purification ever obtained is that I achieved at Sloan Kettering in NY, and published in 1965 by a technique that has NOTHING to do with sucrose gradients, but is entirely based on double ultrafiltrations and ultracentifugations ?? The results obtained by my technique are illustrated on the enclosed EM picture. Don’t you think that this is highly significant, and deserves quoting, instead of ignorance ?

You might recall that on 7 April 2009 the Perth Group circulated a critique of your published work entitled The Friend leukaemia virus and Etienne de Harven, in which they critically analysed ‘The results obtained by my technique … illustrated on the enclosed EM picture’ and your claim that the ‘best retrovirus purification ever obtained is that I achieved at Sloan Kettering in NY, and published in 1965’.

They disagreed that it was ‘highly significant, and deserves quoting, instead of ignorance.’

Quite the contrary, they concluded in as many words that your published work on FLV was not ‘significant’ at all, and that it was pure ‘ignorance’ from start to finish.

I’ve copied the Perth Group’s critique of your work below, and I’d be grateful if you’d closely examine it, as you did Leung’s film, and identify the Perth Group’s ‘ignorance’, namely where they lose the plot in critically analysing your ‘best retrovirus purification ever obtained’.

Could I ask you to highlight any statements the Perth Group make with which you disagree and interpolate your critical comments in CAPITALS?

As you rightly say, it’s time for authoritative ‘NEW ideas, ideas that completely re-orient HIV/AIDS research’, and what better than from a pathology professor specializing in the isolation and electron micrography of retroviruses.



Etienne de Harven to Steve Stannard, 20 December 2011


I apologize for a late answer, although I have difficulty to see the urgency of re-discussing papers I wrote more than half a century ago !!

Of course I remember very well the strange note the Perth group circulated in 2007!

Why strange ?

Because the first time I heard about Val Turner was, I guess, around 1997. At that time I had just published in “Continuum” my 1965 EM picture of purified “Friend leukemia virus”. Soon after that, I received an e-mail from Val Turner, warmly congratulating me for the beautiful EM demonstration of retrovirus purification !! Could you understand that the same Val Turner, 10 years later, apparently believes that this purification does not deserve quotation and should be ignored ??!! I wish I could retrieve his message, but it would probably take a lot of time in diving into my archives, a time I don’t have, not being sure that I would actually have a chance to retrieve it !!

It’s true that my 1965 purification of FLV was based on a technique I had developed, at Sloan Kettering in New York, and that my technique had nothing to do with the use of sucrose density gradient centrifugation at 1.16 g/ml. True also that after the 2 full days I gave to Brent Leung, a few years ago, here in my house, to explain to him the details of my technique of purification technique, I was very disappointed to realize, in his first film, that he had completely overlooked all what I had explained and illustrated to him ! True also that in his second film, Brent Leung rehashes, endlessly, what we all have been repeating 100X for the past 20 years (Heckler’s press conference in 1984, Djamel Tahi’s interview of Montagnier, etc, etc...). We have heard enough of that, don’t you think ??

But back to Val Turner’s note:

– True, in the 1958 paper, we spoke about “virus-like” particles, and in 1960 we spoke about “viruses” !! I remember vividly that, when we had the draft of the second paper, I went myself to show it to Nobel laureate Peyton Rous, at the Rockefeller, just across the street, and he insisted for us to speak about “viruses” and no longer about “virus-like particles” !! We followed his advice !!

– Turner should remember that, following a recommendation by André Lwoff at a historic conference at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab in 1962, the entire classification of viruses was strictly based (and still is !) on their ultrastructural characterization, as provided by electron microscopy!

– True also that, in these late 1950’s years, we were still in a total ignorance regarding endogenous viruses !! I certainly would have written the 2 papers Val Turner is criticizing somewhat differently, if the concept of endogenous viruses had been already in our minds half a century ago !

– There is no doubt that I was the first to describe the ultrastructural steps of the “budding” of retroviruses. “Budding” was, after I published the 1960 paper, regarded universally as a key element in the EM identification of retroviruses.

– There is no doubt either that I was the first to claim that no retroviruses particles have ever been seen in the blood of “high viral load” patients. I made that clear statement at Mbeki’s 2000, Pretoria conference. Turner attended that conference, and he has, therefore, no excuse to mention that fact without quoting me !!

I attach to this message my 1965 EM of the purified FLV. Nobody has ever been capable of repeating that kind of demonstration from the blood of any AIDS patient.

Instead of wasting our time arguing on possible weak spots in our late 1950’s papers, the PG would better express their views on my JAPS 2010 paper, a paper they conveniently choose to ignore !! I would like to see the debate turning around NEW IDEAS, not rehashing endlessly on Gallo, Montagnier, etc !!!

Hoping that this is answering your main questions (?), and fully available, of course, for any additional discussion,

Best regards,

Etienne de Harven.  


Steve Stannard to Etienne de Harven, 29 December 2011

Dear Professor de Harven

Thank you for your reply.

Regarding your comment ‘Instead of wasting our time arguing on possible weak spots in our late 1950’s papers, the PG would better express their views on my JAPS 2010 paper, a paper they conveniently choose to ignore !!’

I hear what you say Professor but as you yourself wrote, in the light of 40 years further knowledge you would have written your papers differently, and in my recent researches I was told by Val Turner that:

“Professor de Harven has already admitted publicly he never isolated any virus, and that he has been talking too much about about those old, outdated murine leukemia virus papers. We are therefore surprised to hear that he has brought it up again, but perhaps he has forgotten.”

And here is the quote from you:

‘These famous mouse leukemia retroviruses I have talked about so much (maybe too much!) have always been INTERPRETED as being exogenous, although their contagiousness has never been proved.’

As for the substance of your 2010 article, as far back as 1996 in their Continuum piece in section 6.3. SPECULATIONS ON “HIV DNA” PG deal very comprehensively with the substance of your ‘NEW Ideas..’, And this quote from it is apposite:

“If the selected RNA which was found to band at 1.16 gm/ml, the “HIV RNA”, is the genome of a retrovirus which exists “in all of us”, endogenous retrovirus, then again evidence must prove the existence of a unique molecular entity, “HIV RNA”, (“HIV DNA”). When hybridisation studies are conducted using the full length of the unique molecular entity as a probe, positive results should be found “in all of us” (...) If the “HIV RNA” is neither the genome of a retrovirus nor a faithful transcript of a fragment of DNA present in the cells from which it has been obtained, but is the result of the “shock” to which the cells have been exposed, either in vivo or in vitro or both, or as a result of the phenomena discovered in the 1980s then: (i) since it is not possible to exactly reproduce the conditions in vivo or in vitro to which the cells are subjected, it would prove difficult if not impossible to always obtain a unique molecular entity “HIV RNA”, that is, to always obtain a fragment of RNA or DNA of identical length and sequences; (ii) when the full-length fragments of “HIV RNA” or “HIV cDNA” are used as hybridisation probes there will be only a low probability of finding a positive result. However, the probability will increase if only small fragments of the “HIV RNA” or “HIV cDNA” are employed.”

As you can see, PG have showed why they believe your theory of an endogenous retrovirus is the least likely possibility.

Moreover, I was surprised to see you write that Val Turner had ignored your JPANDS article, so I took the time to write and ask if he had read it and what he thought about it, and he said he already commented on it in an open mail exchange entitled ‘Duesberg’s Soft Spot’.

Please find attached the body of the email that Val Turner, on behalf of PG, wrote to you (and Andrew Maniotis) on the very subject.

While corresponding about this, Val Turner has also made me aware of a recent very thorough analysis of your 2010 Jpands article by Claus Jensen on his ‘HIV’ Symposium discussion forum and that he doesn’t have much more to add to that and what the PG already said 15 years ago.

However, Val Turner made clear to me that if there is anything you feel hasn’t been dealt with adequately in those articles, you are most welcome to write and ask for clarification of specifics.

This is a most useful and interesting discussion for me and I look forward to hearing your comments in reply.

In the meantime, thank you again for your time and very best wishes for the approaching New Year.

Kind regards

Steve Stannard

London, UK


Etienne de Harven to Steve Stannard, 15 January 2012

Good evening Steve Stannard,

I apologize for late answering to your important Dec 29 note! Sorry !

I must say that I was disturbed by several points in your note, and that’s probably why I hesitated to answer right away !

– I don’t know where Val Turner is finding his quotations, but I can tell you that I NEVER “admitted I never isolated any virus” !!! To the opposite, for the past almost 50 years (!) I am proud for having achieved an excellent purification of these particles that were present in the blood of Swiss mice suffering from the Friend leukemia. True, at that time, we (Charlotte Friend, Peyton Rous, and me !) were convinced that these viruses were exogenous! But could you ask Val Turner why he congratulated me in the late 90’s when I reproduced that famous picture in “Continuum”, and why he now seem to feel that this was rubbish !!! Strange, don’t you think ? (I attach that famous picture for your file !!)

– I was well aware about the fact that the PG had reviewed some data concerning endogenous viruses in the 90’s. But this was not their own work, from their own lab !! They had reviewed OTHER PEOPLE’s WORK, and I don’t see why I should have included their reviews ? When I speak in my JAPS paper about HERVs and about circulating DNA, I carefully quoted Lower (77) and Anker (85) who are real molecular virologist/biologists, WORKING AT THE LAB BENCH !

– The old reviews by the PG (“Speculations on HIV DNA”) do not apply to my JAPS paper at all, because the indisputably NEW IDEA in my paper is for having associated HERVs and circulating DNA, something the PG never alluded to. If you can find any reference in which that critical association is being made before, please let me know !!

– You say that a note Val Turner wrote to me and Andy M. in July 2008 is a clear indication for the fact that Val T. is not ignoring my 2010 paper !!!

Strange, indeed !

– And to give a more recent perspective you sent me that piece by Claus Jensen that has apparently been presented at “The HIV Symposium” !!!

Could you tell me who sponsored that “Symposium”, please ? Was this a scientific conference ? Can hardly believe it !! It is not enough to put Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’ on top to make it scientifically valid !! I refuse to believe that Val Turner gives the slightest attention to Jensen’s piece that is an accumulation on non-sense and insults ! When I first saw that piece I felt like suing Jensen for slander, but I have better thinks to do with my time ! Val Turner should know that the fact that HIV research has been confounded by HERVs was first claimed, 2008, in Robin Weiss’s lab (C. Voisset’s paper, my ref. 92) and is not MY “major claim” as Jensen quite stupidly stressed !!!  

– I verified with orthodox AIDS experts my difficulty to find any evidence for a key missing control, i.e. search for so-called “viral load” in SERONEGATIVE severely ill, non-AIDS patients (not babies, of course !). I corresponded with Jay Levy on that, and he could obviously not find such a reference either...

Quite separately from the subject of your message, I wonder if you are aware of the fact that I officially resigned, on Nov 28, from my past position as member of RA’s Board of Directors.

I attach my resignation message to David Crowe, for your information.

Pleased to continue discussing with you, anytime !!

Best wishes,

Etienne de Harven.


Steve Stannard to Etienne de Harven, 16 January 2012

Good evening Professor de Harven

Thank you so much for your detailed reply, and the attachments including your letter to David (Crowe) of your resignation from the RA Board, which you say was 28 November, which I assume is 2011, November just past.

By the way, I see no record of your resignation on the RA website, as you requested it should be in your letter.

I will take a little time to formulate a reply, so I hope to be in touch with you again in the coming week.

Many thanks once again for your time

Best wishes

Steve Stannard

London, UK


Steve Stannard to Etienne de Harven, 22 January 2012

Dear Professor de Harven

Having studied your reply of 15th January in depth, since I see nothing in it that leads me to think any differently to what I stated in my message of 29 December I believe we will have to agree to disagree.

I welcome your decision to leave the RethinkingAids organisation and the reasons you give.

It is of course a reflection on that organisation and its leadership that David Crowe hasn’t seen fit to honour your request to place your statement on their website.

With many thanks for your time and effort and very best wishes,

Steve Stannard


London, UK


Steve Stannard to Etienne de Harven, 31 January 2012

Dear Professor de Harven

I hope this email finds you well.

Just as an update to our discussions

As you know in our last emails I drew your attention to Claus Jensen’s analysis of your JAPS 2010 paper, and you replied with your thoughts on that.

I notice that Claus has given those thoughts, and the views of Eleni and Val and other members of the Perth Group on your elaboration of your new ideas, and your references to the work of Robin Weiss and Jay Levy, some consideration. He has therefore written a new response to them and you can read that here at this link.

I would be very interested on your views of this latest analysis.

You are also welcome to comment directly at that site too – at the ‘Leave a Reply’ section at the end – as it does not require any registration to do that, and your views will appear to anyone reading that analysis.

Once again many thanks for your time,

Best wishes

Steve Stannard


London, UK