The Nobel Prize in medicine for 2020 has been awarded to Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M Rice for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Announcing the prize in Stockholm on Monday, the Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work helped justify a serious supply of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
Their work makes possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved many lives, the committee said.
The head of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlmann, announced the winners in Stockholm.
The World Health Organisation estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. The disease is chronic and a serious reason for liver inflammation and cancer.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize cash of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a souvenir left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
The 2020 #NobelPrize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.” pic.twitter.com/MDHPmbiFmS
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 5, 2020
“This year’s Nobel Prize is awarded to a few scientists who have created a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major international health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in individuals around the globe,” the committee said during a statement.
“The 2020 Nobel Prize laureates Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a completely unique virus, hepatitis C,” it said.
“Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are currently out there and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in several components of the planet, greatly improving world health,” the committee said.
“Their discovery additionally allowed the fast development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the primary time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the global population.”
The award is the first of six prizes being announced through October 12. The different prizes are for outstanding work within the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics.