Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to trio who discovered Hepatitis C virus

Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M Rice jointly honoured for their decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem

Nobel prize in medicine, Physiology, Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton, Charles M Rice
Alter, Houghton and Rice are seen on a screen as the three laureates as they are declared winners in Stockholm on Friday | Reuters

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Dr Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M Rice on Monday for the discovery of hepatitis C virus, a breakthrough the Nobel Assembly said had “made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives”.

The Nobel Assembly announced the prize at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

“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.

Who are the winners?

Dr Alter, an American (born in New York in 1935), is a medical researcher for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland.

Dr Houghton, born in Britain, is the Li Ka Shing professor of virology at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is also director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the university.

Dr Rice, born in 1952 Sacramento, is a professor at Rockefeller University in New York. From 2001 to 2018, he was the scientific and executive director at the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C at the university.

Who won the 2019 Nobel Prize for medicine?

The prize was awarded to William G Kaelin Jr, Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza for discoveries about how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. These cellular mechanisms control, for example, adaptation to high altitudes and how cancer cells manage to hijack oxygen.

When will the other Nobel Prizes be announced?

  • The Nobel Prize in Physics will be announced on Tuesday in Sweden.
  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced on Wednesday in Sweden.
  • The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced on Thursday in Sweden. The prizes for both 2018 and 2019 were announced last year after a postponement of the 2018 prize. That occurred after the husband of an academy member was accused, and ultimately convicted, of rape — a crisis that led to the departure of several board members and required the intervention of the King of Sweden.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday in Norway.
  • The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science will be announced next Monday in Sweden.

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