The announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prizes commenced on Monday (October 5) with the naming of the winners in the field of physiology or medicine.
The 2020 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice for the “discovery of Hepatitis C virus”.
According to the Nobel Prize panel, the 2020 Medicine Laureates’ discoveries had reportedly revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines.
This implied that for the first time in history, the Hepatitis C virus can be cured.
According to the panel, Harvey J. Alter’s studies of transfusion-associated hepatitis had demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis, while Michael Houghton had used an “untested strategy” to isolate the genome of the new virus that was named ‘Hepatitis C virus’. Finally, Charles M. Rice provided conclusive evidence that showed that the Hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.
A panel at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm announced the recipients of the award after 02:50 pm (0930 GMT).
There were speculations earlier that the medicine prize carries particular significance this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world. However, it was also noted that it would be unlikely that the winners will have been directly involved in researching the new virus, as the prize usually goes to discoveries made many years or even decades ago.
Often, the Nobel Assembly recognizes basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today. It is common for several scientists who worked in the same field to share the prize.
Last year, British scientist Peter Ratcliffe and Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza received the award for discovering details of how the body’s cells sense and react to low oxygen levels.
The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prizes creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The amount was increased recently to adjust for inflation.
The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.
(With inputs from agencies)