The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Alter, Houghton and Rice "for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus."
Date5 October 2020 (2020-10-05)
Presented byNobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet
Hosted byThomas Perlmann
Reward(s)9 million SEK (2017)[1]
First awarded1901
2020 laureatesHarvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice
Website2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
← 2019 · Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine · 2021 →

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to the American virologists Harvey J. Alter (b. 1935), Michael Houghton (b. 1949) and Charles M. Rice (b. 1952) "for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus."[2][3][4] During the award ceremony on December 10, 2020, Prof. Gunilla Karlsson-Hedestam said:

"The discovery of the Hepatitis C virus by this year’s Laureates laid the foundation for our current understanding about how the virus survives in its niche during the long chronic phase of the infection, and how liver disease develops. And importantly, it led to the development of highly effective anti-viral medicines that now cure the infection in almost all treated persons."[5]


Seminal experiments by HJ Alter, M Houghton and CM Rice leading to the discovery of HCV as the causative agent of non-A, non-B hepatitis.

Harvey J. Alter

Main article: Harvey J. Alter

Alter was born in New York City[6] in a Jewish family.[7] He attended the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1956. In 1960, Alter obtained a medical degree from University of Rochester[8][9] and began a residency at Strong Memorial. Alters's post graduate training includes a rotation as a clinical associate at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, from December 1961 to June 1964;[10][7][11] a year of residency in medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington,[12] from July 1964 to June 1965; and work as a hematology fellow at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C., from July 1965 to June 1966.[10] He has been senior investigator in the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the NIH from July 1969 to present; chief of infectious diseases section at the department of transfusion medicine in the Clinical Center NIH from December 1972 to present; associate director for research at the department of transfusion medicine at the Clinical Center at NIH from January 1987 to present.[10] He was the recipient of 1992 Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award, the 2002 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award or his work leading to the discovery of the virus that causes hepatitis C, and 2013 Gairdner Foundation International Award.[13]

Michael Houghton

Main article: Michael Houghton (virologist)

Michael James Houghton was born in 1949 in the United Kingdom. He received his Ph.D. degree in biochemistry in 1977 from King's College London. He joined the G. D. Searle & Company before moving in 1982 to Chiron Corporation in California. He relocated to the University of Alberta in 2010 and is currently a professor of virology at the University of Alberta where he is also director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute.[14] He was a recipient of numerous prizes such as 1992 Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award (together with Harvey J. Alter), the 1994 William Beaumont Prize, and the 2002 Lasker Award.[15]

Charles M. Rice

Main article: Charles M. Rice

Charles Moen Rice was born in 1952 in Sacramento, California. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1981 from the California Institute of Technology where he also trained as a postdoctoral fellow between 1981 and 1985. He established his research group at Washington University School of Medicine in 1986 and became a full professor in 1995. Since 2001, he has been professor at the Rockefeller University in New York. During 2001–2018, he was the Scientific and Executive Director at the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C at Rockefeller University where he remains active.[16] He was the recipient of the 2007 M.W. Beijerinck Virology Prize, the 2015 Robert Koch Prize, and the 2016 Lasker Award (with Michael J. Sofia and Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager).[17]

Key publications

The following publications were the fundamental researches that motivated the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet to award the 2020 Prize to Alter, Houghton and Rice:[18]

Harvey J. Alter

Michael Houghton

Charles M. Rice

Collaborative work


  1. ^ "Nobel Prize amount is raised by SEK 1 million". Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  2. ^ The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020
  3. ^ Katherine J. Wu and Daniel Victor (5 October 2020). "Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Scientists Who Discovered Hepatitis C Virus". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  4. ^ Rob Stein (5 October 2020). "3 Scientists Win Nobel Prize For Hepatitis C Virus Discovery". National Public Radio. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  5. ^ Award ceremony speech - 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  6. ^ Henrichsen, Colleen (September 21, 2000). "NIH Clinical Center scientist a Lasker Award recipient". Press release. NIH. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Alter, Harvey J. (2014). "The road not taken or how I learned to love the liver: A personal perspective on hepatitis history". Hepatology. 59 (1): 4–12. doi:10.1002/hep.26787. ISSN 1527-3350. PMID 24123147. S2CID 30040670.
  8. ^ "Rochester graduate awarded 2020 Nobel Prize for 'landmark achievement' against hepatitis". NewsCenter. October 5, 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  9. ^ Freile, Victoria E. (October 6, 2020). "UR graduate Harvey Alter awarded Nobel Prize in fight against Hepatitis". Democrat and Chronicle. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c "Harvey J. Alter Curriculum Vitae". Archived from the original on September 4, 2005. Retrieved April 21, 2006.
  11. ^ National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Clinical Center (1958). Report of program activities : National Institutes of Health. Clinical Center. NIH Library. Bethesda, Md. : The Center.
  12. ^ Alter, Harvey J.; Klein, Harvey G. (October 1, 2008). "The hazards of blood transfusion in historical perspective". Blood. 112 (7): 2617–2626. doi:10.1182/blood-2008-07-077370. ISSN 0006-4971. PMC 2962447. PMID 18809775.
  13. ^ Harvey J. Alter
  14. ^ Michael Houghton – Facts
  15. ^ Michael Houghton
  16. ^ Charles M. Rice – Facts
  17. ^ Charles M. Rice
  18. ^ Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020