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Nobel Prize in medicine 2020 - Hepatitis C Virus

Nobel Prize in medicine 2020 - Hepatitis C Virus

Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology for the discovery of the “Hepatitis C” virus, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced in Stockholm, Sweden.

"For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population," the committee said in a statement.

All three laureates have also won awards given out by the Lasker Foundation in recognition of contributions to medical science and service.

How do the three scientists split the prize?

  • What had been originally known were two main types of infectious hepatitis, type A, and type B. It was until the 1970s that the non-A, non-B hepatitis was discovered by Harvey Alter, who was then studied blood transfusion patients at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
  • Later, Michael Houghton, working for the pharmaceutical firm Chiron, undertook the arduous work needed to isolate the genetic sequence of the virus, and named the unknown virus, Hepatitis C in 1989.
  • Charles M. Rice was the person who provided the final evidence showing that the Hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.

About Winners of Nobel Prize in medicine

  • Harvey Alter was born in 1935 in New York and is a senior investigator for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. He received his medical degree at the University of Rochester Medical School and trained in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital and at the University Hospitals of Seattle.
  • Michael Houghton is a British scientist, and currently a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology and the Li Ka Shing Professor of Virology at the University of Alberta.
  • Charles M. Rice was born in 1952 in the U.S. and is a professor at Rockefeller University in New York. He was the Scientific and Executive Director, Center for the Study of Hepatitis C at Rockefeller University from 2001-2018, where he remains active.

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