Three scientists have been announced as the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus,” the Nobel Committee announced Monday. “Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus,” the Nobel Committee said in a statement announcing the winners. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice will equally share the 9 million kronor ($1 million U.S.) cash award. 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.
Harvey J. Alter was born in 1935 in New York. 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 was born in the United Kingdom. He received his PhD degree in 1977 from King’s College London. Charles M. Rice was born in 1952 in Sacramento. He received his PhD degree in 1981 from the California Institute of Technology where he also trained as a postdoctoral fellow between 1981-1985. Blood-borne hepatitis is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and causes more than a million deaths per year world-wide, thus making it a global health concern on a scale comparable to HIV-infection and tuberculosis.