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ST. LOUIS – A scientist who conducted his studies at Washington University School of Medicine is among the three scientists who have been co-awarded a Nobel prize for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

Charles M. Rice was awarded along with Michael Houghton and Harvey Alter Monday, October 5.

The discovery was “a landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases”, according to the Nobel Prize committee, delivering the award in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rice is the 19th scientist associated with Washington University to be honored with the Nobel Prize. He conducted his work on the campus from 1986 to 2001.

“Dr. Rice for many decades has been a pioneer in the field of molecular biology and genetics of many emerging RNA viruses including flaviviruses, alphaviruses, and hepaciviruses, ” said Washington University collaborator Michael S. Diamond.

The trio’s work has 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,” said the committee.

Hepatitis C virus is an insidious and deadly blood-borne virus that causes severe liver disease in more than 71 million people worldwide.