The Daily Telegraph
Briton awarded Nobel Prize for discovery of hepatitis C
A BRITISH scientist has been awarded a Nobel Prize for saving “millions of lives” by discovering hepatitis C.
Prof Michael Houghton, who was born in the UK and received his PHD in 1977 from King’s College London, has been jointly awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine alongside two other scientists.
Prof Houghton, who relocated to the University of Alberta in 2010, and Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice were awarded the prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
Prior to their work, while the discoveries of the hepatitis A and B viruses were vital, the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained.
The identification of hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are more than 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year.
The award, which will be split three ways, comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (£867,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
Announcing the prize in Stockholm yesterday, the Nobel Committee said: “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.”
It added: “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.”
Prof Houghton follows in the footsteps of Baruch Blumberg, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 for discovering that one form of blood-borne hepatitis was caused by a virus that became known as hepatitis B virus.