Health Care

University of Alberta virologist awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

University of Alberta virologist awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine”

It added: "Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at Hepatitis C".

The discoveries of these three Nobel laureates "saved millions of lives worldwide", Nobel Committee member Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam tells Gretchen Vogel of Science magazine.

In this highly exceptional year, where conversation about virology has moved out of textbooks and classrooms to every dinner table around the world, the topic could not be more germane. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus.

But he is pleased that the discovery had a global impact.

Prof Michael Houghton, while at the pharmaceutical firm Chiron, managed to isolated the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989. From many angles, the Nobel Prize announcement looked similar to previous years.

The disease is among the leading contributors to liver cancer cases and liver transplantation. 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. Jason Sheltzer, PhD, fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, noted on Twitter that Houghton had previously declined to accept the renowned Gairdner Prize in 2013, a Canadian award considered to be a precursor to the Nobel.

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

More news: Virus herd immunity slammed as 'unethical' by World Health Organization boss

Alter was born in NY in 1935 and has worked at the National Institutes of Health as well as Georgetown University. Charles M. Rice, born in 1952 in the US, received his PhD degree from the California Institute of Technology, is working at the Rockefeller University, New York, according to a statement from the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet. Most patients are able to recover from the infection, but in chronic cases, hepatitis C slowly corrodes the liver over years or decades.

"This rule of three that the Nobel committee adheres to is, in this case, unfortunate", Rice says. "His work on viruses, including the signature achievement of growing hepatitis C in the lab, perfectly embodies this university's mission: science for the benefit of humanity". "And once that has been done, that is, in itself, the starting point for development of drugs to treat the disease and also to develop vaccines against the disorder". His research has focused on the occurrence of hepatitis in patients who had received blood transfusions. The three of us worked closely together for nearly seven years to discover this very elusive and challenging virus using a novel approach in the field of infectious disease.

The Nobel Committee often recognizes basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today.

"It takes time before it's fully apparent how beneficial a discovery is", said Thomas Perlmann, the Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee. For instance, some researchers predicted that German virologist Ralf Bartenschlager of Heidelberg University would share the prize with Rice, because Bartenschlager developed methods of growing hepatitis C in cells that enabled drug development.

The literature prize will be announced on Thursday and the peace prize on Friday, with speculation that Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and other climate activists or press freedom groups could get the nod for the latter.

The 2020 Nobel Prize was given at Sweden's Karolinska Institute on Monday, October 5.

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