2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool

STOCKHOLM — The Nobel Prize in chemistry went to two researchers Wednesday for a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA, the code of life — technology already being used to try to cure a host of diseases and raise better crops and livestock.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States won for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

More than 100 clinical trials are underway to study using CRISPR to treat inherited diseases, and “many are very promising,” according to Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.

“My greatest hope is that it’s used for good, to uncover new mysteries in biology and to benefit humankind,” said Doudna, who is affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, and is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press’ Health and Science Department.

The prize-winning work has opened the door to some thorny ethical issues: When editing is done after birth, the alterations are confined to that person. Scientists fear CRISPR will be misused to make “designer babies” by altering eggs, embryos or sperm — changes that can be passed on to future generations.

Much of the world became aware of CRISPR in 2018, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed he had helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, to try to engineer resistance to infection with the AIDS virus. His work was denounced as unsafe human experimentation, and he has been sentenced to prison in China.

In September, an international panel of experts issued a report saying it is too soon to try such experiments because the science isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety.

“Being able to selectively edit genes means that you are playing God in a way,” said American Chemistry Society President Luis Echegoyen, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas El Paso.

Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, said: “New technology often presents this dichotomy — there is immense potential for human benefit, especially for disease treatment, but also the risk of misapplication.”

However, scientists universally praised the great potential that gene editing has for patients now.

“There’s no aspect of biomedical research that hasn’t been touched by CRISPR,” which has been used to engineer better crops and to try to cure human diseases including sickle cell, HIV infection and inherited forms of blindness, said Dr. Kiran Musunuru, a genetics expert at the University of Pennsylvania who is researching it for heart disease.

Doudna said CRISPR also has the potential to be used to engineer plants to store more carbon or to withstand extremes of climate change, giving researchers a chance to “address urgent problems humanity is facing.”

It’s the fourth time in the 119-year history

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for genome editing tool

Oct. 7 (UPI) — A French scientist and an American professor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work in developing a “genetic scissors” used to fight human diseases.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French-born researcher and director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Germany, and Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, were given the chemistry prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced in Stockholm.

The pair worked together to help develop the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editor, which is capable of cutting DNA genomes in precise locations and allowing researchers to add or delete pieces of genetic material or make changes by replacing an existing segment with a customized sequence.

The tool’s development has led to widespread applications for genome editing — and is faster, more accurate, more efficient and less expensive than other existing methods.

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is used to research a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and sickle cell disease. It also holds some promise for treating and preventing complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, mental illness and HIV/AIDS.

Genome editing has also found a strong presence in agriculture, where it’s used to develop crops resistant to mold, pests and drought.

After publishing an initial discovery in 2011, Charpentier teamed with Doudna to develop the “genetic scissors” to make it easier to use. The next year, they proved it could be controlled and used to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a statement Wednesday. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Due to ethical considerations, scientists are limited to using CRISPR/Cas9 in humans on somatic cells — cells other than egg and sperm cells. Changes made in those cells are not passed from one generation to the next.

The Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded Monday to Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton for their work on curing Hepatitis C; the prize for physics was given Tuesday to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their research on black holes.

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and the prize for economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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The Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to the trio that discovered hepatitis C

Earlier today, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists, Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice, who discovered the hepatitis C virus. The Hepatitis C virus was first discovered in 1989 and had previously been called non-A, non-B hepatitis.



a hand holding a coin: For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.


© Provided by Popular Science
For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.

Globally, an estimated 71 million people currently are infected with hepatitis C, which causes liver disease. In 2016, nearly 400,000 people died from cirrhosis and liver cancer as a result of the virus.

The first form of hepatitis, now called hepatitis A, was discovered in the 1940s, and was spread by contaminated food and water. By the 1960′s, researchers discovered another form, hepatitis B, a blood-borne liver infection. However, some patients undergoing blood transfusions were still mysteriously falling ill, thanks to a then-unknown pathogen we now know as hepatitis C, making a transfusion during this time a bit like “Russian roulette,” according to the Guardian.

Nobel-winner Alter, now at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, made the first giant leap towards uncovering hepatitis C back in the 1970′s when he isolated a third blood-borne pathogen in addition to hepatitis A and B that could transmit the disease to chimpanzees, the only other susceptible host besides humans, according to the Nobel Institute.

Gallery: Dr. Fauci Reveals Your Risk Factors For COVID (ETNT Health)

Next, Houghton, who was then working for a pharmaceutical firm named Chiron, collected DNA and RNA from infected chimpanzees to try and identify the mysterious virus. Houghton and his team then put the collection of DNA into bacteria to see if any of the bacterial colonies could recreate a protein typically only created by the mysterious virus, which would lead them to the culprit causing the disease. Only one out of a million colonies were able to code the protein for the virus, and the researchers were able to show that the virus belonged to the Flavivirus family, and it was named hepatitis C. Blood tests were developed, largely knocking out any chance of the virus spreading through blood transmissions, according to Science Magazine.



a hand holding a coin: For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.


© Adam Baker
For many years, not knowing what hepatitis C was made blood transfusions incredibly risky.

Rice, then a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, took the final step in proving that the virus alone could cause the chronic disease seen in humans by testing out genetic variants in chimpanzee livers, according to the Nobel Committee.

Now, antiviral treatments for hepatitis C can cure nearly 95 percent of infected patients. But as of five years ago, there were 23.7 new hepatitis C infections per 100,000 people according to the WHO. Activities such as injected drug use, using unsterilized medical equipment, and sexual practices that can expose a partner to blood are still common transmission avenues.

Scientists hope that this prize will bring momentum to research that’ll help rid the world of

A US-British trio wins the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus [Video]

SHOTLIST

STOCKHOLM, SWEDENOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: AFPTV

1. SOUNDBITE 1 – Thomas Perlmann , Nobel Assembly secretary (male, English, 22 sec): “The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2020 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discover of Hepatitis C virus. “

SOLNA, SWEDEN STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN OCTOBER 5, 2020 SOURCE: AFPTV

2. Cutaway: Secretary General of the Nobel Committee Thomas Perlmann making the announcement with photos of the laureates on the screen

BETHESDA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATESOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTHRESTRICTIONS: NO RESALEEDITORIAL USE ONLY

3. SOUNDBITE 2 – Dr. Harvey Alter, Nobel Laureate in Medicine (male, english, 16 sec): “A vaccine is still a goal, but it’s been very difficult to do – just like for HIV, it’s a highly mutable virus, and it’s very difficult to develop an effective immune response for a vaccine, but we’re still hopeful.”

UNDEFINEDOCTOBER 5, 2020SOURCE: HANDOUT / ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITYRESTRICTIONS: NO RESALE

4. SOUNDBITE 3 – Charles Rice, virologist at the Rockefeller University and co-winner of the 2020 Nobel Medicine Prize (male, English, 23 sec): “The success of these drug treatments for hepatitis C and the fact that you can actually eliminate the virus, you can actually cure people, you can get rid of it, I think has renewed enthusiasm in people to see if we couldn’t achieve that for other chronic viral infections like hepatitis B and HIV.”

///———————————————————–AFP TEXT STORY:

newseriesUS-British trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for Hepatitis C discovery By Pia OHLIN

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ATTENTION – ADDS Rice reax, laureates working on Covid-19 vaccine ///Stockholm, Oct 5, 2020 (AFP) – Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton Michael Houghton won the Nobel Medicine Prize on Monday for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, paving the way for a cure, the Nobel jury said.The three were honoured for their “decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world,” the jury said.The World Health Organization estimates there are around 70 million Hepatitis C infections globally, causing around 400,000 deaths each year. It is characterized by poor appetite, vomiting, fatigue and jaundice.Thanks to the trio’s discoveries, 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”, the Nobel committee said.Their discoveries allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at Hepatitis C. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the jury said.Alter, 85, told the Nobel Foundation he was “in shock” after receiving an early-morning call from the committee, saying he didn’t answer the first two times.”The third time I got up angrily to answer it… and it was Stockholm,” he said.”To see so many people get cured, and nobody getting post-transfusion hepatitis, that’s astounding

U.S., British hepatitis C researchers win Nobel Prize in Medicine

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Three scientists who each played a role in finding a cure for hepatitis C have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Nobel Foundation announced Monday.

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton won the 2020 prize for their separate work in battling hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The disease is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide, making it a global health threat on a scale comparable to HIV infection and tuberculosis.

The prize was announced during a ceremony at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the honor each year.

Two other types of hepatitis — A and B — had been identified earlier, but a still-unknown form had continued to affect blood transfusion patients.

In the 1970s, Alter, working at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, first showed that the condition was caused by a previously unknown, distinct virus, later named the hepatitis C virus.

Identifying the virus, however, eluded researchers for more than a decade. Houghton, then working for the Chiron Corp. in California, was able to isolate the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989, providing a key breakthrough.

With the virus identified, researchers still needed to prove that it alone was capable of causing hepatitis. Rice, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, provided the link in 2005 after eight years of research.

The scientists’ contributions have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” 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.”

The Nobel Institute’s two other scientific prizes — for physics and chemistry — will be announced Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be followed by the literature prize on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to trio who discovered Hepatitis C virus

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. “Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery 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.

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Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice will equally share the 9 million kronor ($1 million U.S.) cash award.

The Nobel Committee said that the three scientists “have made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.”

“The Nobel Laureates’ discovery of Hepatitis C virus is a landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases,” said the Nobel Committee. “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. Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C. For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population. To achieve this goal, international efforts facilitating blood testing and making antiviral drugs available across the globe will be required.”

MORE: Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for development of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries

PHOTO: 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine announced, Stockholm, Oct. 5, 2020. (Claudio Bresciani/EPA via Shutterstock)
PHOTO: 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine announced, Stockholm, Oct. 5, 2020. (Claudio Bresciani/EPA via Shutterstock)

MORE: Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to trio who discovered how cells sense and adapt to oxygen

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. In 1961, he joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a clinical associate. He spent several years at Georgetown University before returning to NIH in 1969 to join the Clinical Center’s Department of Transfusion Medicine as a senior investigator.

Michael Houghton was born in the United Kingdom. He received his PhD degree in 1977

Nobel prize in medicine awarded to US-UK trio for work on hepatitis C

Two Americans and a British scientist have won the 2020 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for their groundbreaking work on blood-borne hepatitis, a health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer around the world.



a man standing in front of a flat screen television: Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

Harvey J Alter at the US National Institutes of Health in Maryland, Charles M Rice from Rockefeller University in New York, and Michael Houghton, a British virologist at the University of Alberta in Canada, were honoured for their joint discovery of the hepatitis C virus, a major cause of liver disease.

The award, announced on Monday by the Nobel assembly from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, is worth 10m Swedish kronor (£870,000), which will be shared among the winners.

“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,” the Nobel committee said.

Speaking of how he heard the news, Alter said he ignored the phone twice when it rang before 5am local time. “The third time I got up angrily to answer it and it was Stockholm. It’s a weird experience,” he said. “It’s the best alarm clock I’ve ever had.” Rice said he was “absolutely stunned” on receiving the call, adding “it is a success story for team science.”



a man standing in front of a flat screen television: Nobel committee member Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a screen displaying the winners, (from left) Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday.


© Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
Nobel committee member Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a screen displaying the winners, (from left) Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday.

The prize may prove controversial. In 2013, Houghton refused a major award for his hepatitis C work because it excluded two former co-workers, George Quo and Qui-Lim Choo who helped him identify the virus. Houghton, who received his PhD from King’s College London in 1977, said his colleagues did not get the recognition they deserved.

David Pendlebury, a citation analyst at Clarivate, a scientific data firm, said he was surprised the Nobel committee had made the award. “There’s no question about the importance of this work and the worthiness of this prize, but one assumes the Nobel committee tries to avoid controversy where possible,” he said. The award threw into high relief the perennial issue of the Nobel’s rule of three, he added, where no more than three researchers can be named for discoveries that have often been team efforts.

Houghton accepted the Nobel but said he hoped future award committees would recognise larger groups of scientists. “Great science, often, is a group of people and I think going forward we somehow need to acknowledge that,” he said.

The scientists’ work transformed the understanding and treatment of hepatitis C, a virus that infects more than 70 million people, and kills 400,000 a year, according to the World Health Organization.

In the 1940s, doctors knew there were two main types of infectious hepatitis. The first, transmitted by the hepatitis A virus, spread via contaminated food and water and

Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to discoverers of hepatitis C

Three scientists won the 2020 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause chronic inflammation of the liver, leading to severe scarring and cancer.



chart: illustration of the hepatisis C virus


© Provided by Live Science
illustration of the hepatisis C virus

The researchers Harvey Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles Rice “made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, hepatitis C virus,” the Nobel Committee wrote in a statement. Two other forms of viral hepatitis — hepatitis A and B — had already been discovered at the time, but most cases of chronic hepatitis remained unexplained, they noted.

“The discovery 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,” the committee wrote. The scientists’ award-winning work took place between the 1970s and 1990s, and enabled doctors to screen patients’ blood for the virus and cure many of the disease, Science Magazine reported. 

Related: 7 revolutionary Nobel Prizes in medicine 

The word “hepatitis” derives from the Greek words for “liver” and “inflammation,” and in addition to hepatitis viruses, the condition can arise from alcohol and drug use, bacterial infections, parasites and autoimmune disorders where the immune system attacks the liver, Live Science previously reported. Hepatitis A and E typically cause short-term illness and are transmitted through food or water contaminated with fecal matter. Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, can lead to chronic infections and are transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. 

Physician and geneticist Baruch Blumberg won the 1976 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for first identifying hepatitis B, a discovery that led to both diagnostic tests for the virus and a successful vaccine, the committee wrote. However, even after this discovery, many cases of chronic hepatitis continued to crop up in patients who received blood transfusions, hinting that a second blood-borne virus might also cause the disease.

Alter found that the illness, which he called “non-A, non-B” hepatitis, could be transmitted from humans to chimpanzees through blood and had the characteristics of a virus. Houghton later led work to clone the virus and named it hepatitis C. Rice examined the virus’s genetic material, known as RNA, and performed genetic engineering experiments to learn how the pathogen causes hepatitis in chimps and humans. These experiments revealed that some forms of the virus do not cause disease, but an “active” form with specific genetic characteristics does. 

Collectively, the three scientists’ discoveries led to the development of highly sensitive blood tests and antiviral drugs for hepatitis C; the new treatments can cure about 95% of hepatitis C patients, Science Magazine reported. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the Nobel Committee wrote. 

That said, about 71 million people still live with chronic hepatitis C infections, worldwide, and the World Health Organization estimates that 400,000 people died

Nobel Prize in medicine awarded for discovery of hepatitis C

Years later, British-born virologist Michael Houghton — then working for the pharmaceutical company Chiron — found a way to clone the virus and identified antibodies created against it by the host’s immune system; this led to the development of screening mechanisms to eliminate the virus in the blood supply. Through genetic analysis, then-Washington University in St. Louis researcher Charles M. Rice characterized the virus and set scientists on a path to finding a cure.

Hepatitis C, which is often transmitted through blood transfusions, causes severe inflammation of the liver and is blamed for 400,000 deaths annually.

The Nobel Committee called the three researchers’ work “a landmark achievement in our battle against viral infections.”

“It’s hard to find something that is of such benefit to mankind as what we are awarding this year,” said Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Committee. “This discovery … has led to improvements for millions of people around the world.”

Hepatitis viruses come in two main forms: hepatitis A, which is transmitted through contaminated water or food and is rarely deadly; and hepatitis B and C, which are carried in blood and bodily fluids and can be far more dangerous. The latter viruses are “insidious,” the Nobel Committee said, because they can linger for years in the blood of an apparently healthy person before erupting into a dangerous disease.

Before these Nobel-winning discoveries, the world had struggled to control these blood-borne pathogens. Geneticist Baruch Blumberg discovered hepatitis B in the 1960s (and was awarded a Nobel the following decade). But patients who received blood transfusions were still coming down with severe liver disease, even after the donor blood had been screened for the hepatitis B virus.

“The situation was becoming alarming,” said Nobel Committee member Gunilla Karlsson-Hedestam. “Because the disease was silent but progressive, it was impossible to know who of all the apparently healthy blood donors were carriers of the disease.”

Alter, who had worked with Blumberg, spearheaded a new NIH project to create a storehouse of blood samples, which could be used to uncover the causes of the transfusion-associated disease. He also tracked people who developed hepatitis after receiving a blood transfusion. His work showed that most illnesses weren’t caused by the A or B virus but “another infectious agent,” Karlsson-Hedestam said.

In 1978, Alter showed that plasma from patients carrying this unknown form of hepatitis could transmit the disease to chimpanzees. A dangerous new virus was clearly hiding in human blood.

But much about the pathogen remained unknown — a fact that frustrated Alter so much he was moved to write poetry. “No antigen or DNA / No little test to mark its way,” he wrote in 1988.

“… Oh GREAT LIVER in the sky

Show us where and tell us why

Send us thoughts that will inspire us.

Let us see this elusive virus.”

The answer to Alter’s lament would come not from a “great liver in the sky” but from Houghton, the British scientist.

From the blood of an infected chimpanzee,

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Scientists Who Discovered Hepatitis C

Numerous life saving treatments have also been developed for the hepatitis C virus, many of which are in regular use today. When available, hepatitis C antivirals can block the virus from multiplying in the body, and can cure people of the infection in weeks. Researchers around the world are now at work on a vaccine that could prevent future hepatitis C virus infections and disease.

“For the longest time, we had nothing to treat this virus with,” said Dr. Guadalupe Garcia Tsao, a cirrhosis expert at Yale University. Preventing the disease, she added, was also nearly impossible without accurate tests. “For most of my career, it was the bane of my existence. But from the moment they made these discoveries, the numbers of sick people went down dramatically.”

Even hepatitis C drugs that originally failed to clear the approval pipeline have found new use in modern times: Remdesivir, one of only a handful of treatments with emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to treat severely sick Covid-19 patients, was originally developed as an antiviral against the hepatitis C virus.

“That’s really the story of investing in basic science, and having it pay off later down the road,” said Stephanie Langel, a virologist and immunologist at Duke University.

Dr. Alter, an American, is a medical researcher for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Born in 1935 in New York, he earned a medical degree at the University of Rochester before joining the N.I.H. in 1961.

Dr. Rice, born in Sacramento in 1952, is a professor at Rockefeller University in New York. From 2001 to 2018, he was the scientific and executive director at the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C. He earned his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1981.

In an interview Monday morning, Dr. Rice described the utter shock he felt at receiving the early morning phone call notifying him of the award.

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