The prestigious Nobel Prize for Medicine for the year 2020 has been conferred to three biologists for identifying the hepatitis C virus, leading to the development of drugs for the deadly disease. The three scientists are Harvey Alter and Charles Rice of the United States, and Michael Houghton of the United Kingdom. The painstaking work of the three scientists spanning the decades of the 1970s and 1980s means that the world is now a safer place as far as the hepatitis C virus is concerned. This is a goal the World Health Organisation (WHO) too desires to achieve in the next decade. The blood-borne virus, discovered by the trio, which causes hepatitis C afflicts 70 million people globally and leads to 4,00,000 casualties every year.
The choice for this year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology is a clear indication of the Nobel Committee’s objective of promoting the cause of identifying the detection and cure of a new and deadly disease. The hepatitis C virus is also a major cause of liver cancer and a big chunk of the patients suffering from it reside in India (6-11 million out of 71 million). Despite the discovery, a vaccine for the virus has not been developed till date. It hardly needs to be mentioned that the planet is currently suffering from a pandemic which has spread to almost every part of it—the Corona Virus.
The Nobel Prize is awarded every year in the month of October in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economics and is considered to be one of the most prestigious prizes in the world. The prizes were first given in the year 1901. The notable instances of the Nobel Prize for Medicine include that of 1962 when James D. Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were chosen for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA. The three scientists picked this year will share 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million).