October 05, 2020
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Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to trio of scientists for discovery of hepatitis C virus

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The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Harvey J. Alter, MD, Michael Houghton, PhD, DSc Hon and Charles M. RicePhD at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

According to the release from the Nobel Assembly, the three scientists “made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus.”

Alter demonstrated HCV caused chronic hepatitis and Hougton, who worked for the pharmaceutical firm Chiron, isolated the genome of the new virus named Hepatitis C virus. Rice, a researcher at Washington University in St. , and his group provided final evidence that HCV alone caused hepatitis, per the release.

“Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel Assembly stated in the release. “Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C. For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

“I am overwhelmed at the moment, but so pleased that this originally obscure virus has proven to have such a large global impact,” Alter, NIH intramural researcher and senior scholar at the NIH Clinical Center’s Department of Transfusion Medicine, said in a NIH press release. “There are so many persons at NIH who advanced my research, but for now I can only thank NIH, itself, for creating the permissive and collaborative environment that supported these studies over the course of decades. I don’t believe my contributions could have occurred anywhere else.”