Professor Jerome Lejeune, the French scientist known to discover the cause of Down’s syndrome, has taken the first step to sainthood, AFP reported quoting the Vatican.

According to a statement released by the Vatican, Pope Francis has recognised the “heroic virtues” of Professor Jerome Lejeune, who died in 1994 aged 67. In future, Lejeune will be beatified in the future, provided that the Vatican attributes a miracle to him.

Beatification is one step removed from sainthood, which normally comes after the attribution of a second miracle.

Lejeune and two other researchers in 1958 discovered that Down’s syndrome sufferers are born with an extra chromosome.

It is a genetic disorder associated with mental and physical disabilities.

The French scientist’s research also helped prenatal detection of the disorder, which sometimes led to abortions. 

The professor was a passionate anti-abortion campaigner and worked with the Vatican on the issue. He was friends with Pope John Paul II, who was recently made a saint.

A foundation in his name now supports research and treatment for genetic intelligence disorders, and is engaged in anti-abortion advocacy.