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16 DECEMBER 2020

Three American Liver Foundation Award Recipients Named Nobel Laureates for Hepatitis C Discovery

December 11th, 2020

Dr. Harvey Alter, Dr. Michael Houghton, and Dr. Charles Rice were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine  

(NEW YORK, NY) – The American Liver Foundation (ALF) is proud to announce that three former ALF Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award recipients have been presented with the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their contributions to the identification of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The laureates awarded are Harvey J. Alter, MD, Scientist Emeritus, Transfusion Medicine Department at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center; Michael Houghton, PhD, DSc Hon, Director, Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (LKSAVI) and Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, at the University of Alberta; and Charles M. Rice, PhD., Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor in Virology and Head of the Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease at The Rockefeller University.  

The ALF’s Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award, which is awarded annually to a scientist who has made a major contribution to liver disease research in basic science or in its application towards the prevention, treatment or cure of liver disease, was awarded to Drs. Alter, Houghton and Rice in 2002, 2018 and 2013 respectively. The world-renowned scientists’ combined work has made highly sensitive blood tests for HCV available, significantly reduced the possibility of post-transfusion hepatitis, and initiated the development of antiviral drugs to treat HCV.

“In the US and around the world, hepatitis C has caused an immense burden of disease for millions of people,” said Tamar Taddei, MD, Associate Professor of Medicines at Yale University and Executive Committee Co-Chair of the National Medical Advisory Committee for the American Liver Foundation. “The research by these three pioneers has led to improved blood safety and treatment to where the virus can be virtually cured in all patients. The availability of these treatments has helped countless people and has significantly changed the face of liver disease.”

Dr. Harvey Alter received his medical degree from the University of Rochester and training in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital and at the University Hospitals of Seattle. In the 1970s, Dr. Alter detected an unknown infectious virus in patients that obtained blood transfusions. Through his research, he and his team identified a new form of viral hepatitis: non-A, non-B hepatitis, that we now know as hepatitis C. 

Dr. Michael Houghton holds a degree in biological studies from University of East Anglia and a doctoral degree in biochemistry from King’s College London. In 1989, with the support of his colleagues, Dr. Houghton led viral hepatitis research that allowed him to piece together fragments of viral DNA from blood taken from hepatitis patients, revealing a novel RNA virus belonging to the same family as flaviviruses. 

Dr. Charles Rice is a graduate of University of California, Davis and California Institute of Technology. He established a new approach to growing and studying HCV, which included the development of the first immunocompetent mouse model of the HCV infection. In 1997, his research proved that the hepatitis C virus was the disease-causing agent in unexplained cases of hepatitis, connecting the dots between the research of the other doctors by establishing a causal relationship between the virus and hepatitis.  

“We at the American Liver Foundation are incredibly proud of the tremendous work done by Drs. Alter, Houghton and Rice,” said Lynn Gardiner Seim, MSN, RN, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the American Liver Foundation. “Their achievements have paved the way for advancements in the treatment of hepatitis C and given us hope for the possibility of eliminating the virus around the world.” 

The Nobel Prize rewards the discoveries that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace, while a memorial prize in economic sciences was added in 1968.



About the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. The Nobel Assembly, consisting of 50 professors at Karolinska Institutet, awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Its Nobel Committee evaluates the nominations. Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded to scientists who have made the most important discoveries for the benefit of humankind. For more information, go to

About the American Liver Foundation

Founded in 1976, the American Liver Foundation (ALF) is the nation’s largest patient advocacy organization for people with liver disease. ALF reaches over 3 million people each year with health information, education and support services via its local community programming and active online presence. ALF has a dedicated National Helpline and a Physician Locator. For more information, go to or call ALF at 1-800-GO-LIVER (1-800-465-4837). 

ALF Media Contact:
Akeia Blue 202-591-4010

Last Updated on January 4, 2021


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