Michael Houghton (virologist)

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Michael Houghton
Prof Michael Houghton.jpg
Born1949 (age 73–74)
Alma materUniversity of East Anglia (BSc)
King's College London (PhD)
Known forHepatitis C
Hepatitis D
AwardsKarl Landsteiner Memorial Award (1992)
Robert Koch Prize (1993)
William Beaumont Prize (1994)
Lasker Award (2000)
Gairdner Foundation International Award (2013 – declined)
Nobel Prize for Medicine (2020)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Alberta
Chiron Corporation
ThesisRNA Polymerases and Transcription in the Chicken Oviduct (1977)
Doctoral advisorJames Chesterton

Sir Michael Houghton (born 1949) is a British scientist and Nobel Prize laureate. Along with Qui-Lim Choo, George Kuo and Daniel W. Bradley, he co-discovered Hepatitis C in 1989.[1] He also co-discovered the Hepatitis D genome in 1986.[2] The discovery of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) led to the rapid development of diagnostic reagents to detect HCV in blood supplies, which has reduced the risk of acquiring HCV through blood transfusion from one in three to about one in two million.[3][4] It is estimated that antibody testing has prevented at least 40,000 new infections per year in the US alone and many more worldwide.[5]

Houghton is currently Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology and Li Ka Shing Professor of Virology at the University of Alberta, where he is also director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute.[6] He is the co-recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice.[7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in the United Kingdom in 1949, his father was a truck driver and union official.[5] He was educated at Alleyn's School.[9] At the age of 17 he became inspired to become a microbiologist after reading about Louis Pasteur.[10][11] Houghton won a scholarship to study at the University of East Anglia, graduating with a lower second class honours degree in biological sciences in 1972,[12] and subsequently completed his PhD degree in biochemistry at King's College London in 1977.[5][13]


Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020: 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.

Houghton joined G. D. Searle & Company before moving to Chiron Corporation in 1982. It was at Chiron that Houghton together with colleagues Qui-Lim Choo and George Kuo, and Daniel W. Bradley from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first discovered evidence for HCV.[14]

Houghton was co-author of a series of seminal studies published in 1989 and 1990 that identified hepatitis C antibodies in blood, particularly among patients at higher risk of contracting the disease, including those who had received blood transfusions.[15][16][17][18] This work led to the development of a blood screening test in 1990; widespread blood screening that began in 1992 with the development of a more sensitive test has since virtually eliminated hepatitis C contamination of donated blood supplies in Canada.[19][20] In other studies published during the same period, Houghton and collaborators linked hepatitis C with liver cancer.[21][22][23]

In 2013, Houghton's team at the University of Alberta showed that a vaccine derived from a single strain of Hepatitis C was effective against all strains of the virus.[24][25] As of 2020 the vaccine was in pre-clinical trials.[26]

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ Choo QL, Kuo G, Weiner AJ, Overby LR, Bradley DW, Houghton M (April 1989). "Isolation of a cDNA clone derived from a blood-borne non-A, non-B viral hepatitis genome". Science. 244 (4902): 359–62. Bibcode:1989Sci...244..359C. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.2523562. PMID 2523562.
  2. ^ Wang, KS; Choo, QL; Weiner, AJ; Ou, JH; Najarian, RC; Thayer, RM; Mullenbach, GT; Denniston, KJ; Gerin, JL; Houghton, M (9 October 1986). "Structure, sequence and expression of the hepatitis delta (delta) viral genome". Nature. 323 (6088): 508–14. Bibcode:1986Natur.323..508W. doi:10.1038/323508a0. PMID 3762705. S2CID 4265339.
  3. ^ "Opinion: Nobel-worthy discovery right in our backyard". Canadian for Health Research. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  4. ^ Semeniuk, Ivan (20 March 2013). "Science world abuzz as virologist turns down Gairdner award". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Thompson, Gilbert (2014). Pioneers of Medicine Without a Nobel Prize. p. 209. ISBN 978-1-78326-386-8.
  6. ^ "MMI Faculty – Michael Houghton, PhD". Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  8. ^ Wu, Katherine J.; Victor, Daniel (5 October 2020). "Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Scientists Who Discovered Hepatitis C Virus – Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice were jointly honored for their decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Congratulations to a Nobel Prize Laureate". Alleyn's School. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Michael Houghton, PhD". Canadians for Health Research. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Eureka moments in research". Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Nobelist: keep faith, because Covid vaccine is just round corner". Times Higher Education. 21 October 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  13. ^ Boyer, J.L; Blum, H.E; Maier, K.P; Sauerbruch, T.; Stalder, G.A (31 March 2001). Liver Cirrhosis and Its Development – Google Books. ISBN 978-0-7923-8760-2. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
  14. ^ Houghton, M (2009). "The long and winding road leading to the identification of the hepatitis C virus". J. Hepatol. 51 (5): 939–948. doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2009.08.004. PMID 19781804.
  15. ^ Kuo, G; Choo, Q-L; Alter, HJ; Gitnick, GI; Redeker, AG; Purcell, RH; Miyamura, T; Dienstag, JL; Alter, MJ; Stevens, CE; Tegtmeier, GE; Bonino, F; Colombo, M; Lee, W-S; Kuo, C; Berger, K; Shuster, JR; Overby, LR; Bradley, DW; Houghton, M (1989). "An assay for circulating antibodies to a major etiologic virus of human non-A, non-B hepatitis". Science. 244 (4902): 362–364. Bibcode:1989Sci...244..362K. doi:10.1126/science.2496467. PMID 2496467.
  16. ^ Esteban, JI; Viladomiu, L; Bonzalez, A; Roget, M; Genesca, J; Guardia, J; Esteban, R; Lopez-Talavera, JC; Hernandez, JM; Vargas, V; Buti, M; Kuo, G; Choo, Q-L; Houghton, M (1989). "Hepatitis C virus antibodies among risk groups in Spain". Lancet. 334 (8658): 294–297. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(89)90485-6. PMID 2569102. S2CID 23825621.
  17. ^ Van Der Poel, CL; Ressink, HW; Lelie, PN; Leentvaar-Kuypers, A; Choo, Q-L; Kuo, G; Houghton, M (1989). "Anti-hepatitis C antibodies and non-A, non-B post-transfusion hepatitis in the Netherlands". Lancet. 334 (8658): 297–298. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(89)90486-8. PMID 2569103. S2CID 25211687.
  18. ^ Alter, HJ; Purcell, RH; Shih, JW; Melpolder, JC; Houghton, M; Choo, Q-L; Kuo, G (1989). "Detection of antibody to hepatitis C virus in prospectively followed transfusion recipients with acute and chronic non-A, non-B hepatitis". N. Engl. J. Med. 321 (22): 1494–1500. doi:10.1056/nejm198911303212202. PMID 2509915.
  19. ^ Cha, T-A; Kolberg, J; Irvine, B; Stempien, M; Beall, E; Yano, M; Choo, Q-L; Houghton, M; Kuo, G; Han, JH; Urdea, MS (1991). "Use of a signature nucleotide sequence of hepatitis C virus for detection of viral RNA in human serum and plasma". J. Clin. Microbiol. 29 (11): 2528–2534. doi:10.1128/JCM.29.11.2528-2534.1991. PMC 270367. PMID 1663510.
  20. ^ Bresters, D; Cuypers, HT; Reesink, HW; Schaasberg, WP; van der Poel, CL; Mauser-Bunschoten, EP; Houghton, M; Choo, Q-L; Kuo, G; Lesniewski, R; Troonen, H; Lelie, PN (1992). "Enhanced sensitivity of a second generation ELISA for antibody to hepatitis C virus". Vox Sang. 62 (4): 213–217. doi:10.1111/j.1423-0410.1992.tb01201.x. PMID 1379394. S2CID 20178902.
  21. ^ Hasan, F; Jeffers, L; de Medina, M; Reddy, R; Parker, T; Schiff, E; Houghton, M; Choo, Q-L; Kuo, G (1989). "Hepatitis C HCV associated hepatocellular carcinoma". Hepatology. 10 (4): 589–91. doi:10.1002/hep.1840100432. PMID 2169456.
  22. ^ De Bisceglie, AM; Alter, H; Kuo, G; Houghton, M; Hoofnagle, JH (1989). "Detection of antibody to hepatitis C virus in patients with various chronic liver diseases". Hepatology. 10 (4): 581. doi:10.1002/hep.1840100432.
  23. ^ Saito, I; Miyamura, T; Ohbayashi, A; Harada, H; Katayama, T; Kikuchi, S; Watanabe, Y; Koi, S; Onji, M; Ohta, Y; Choo, Q-L; Houghton, M; Kuo, G (1990). "Hepatitis C virus infection is associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 87 (17): 6547–6549. Bibcode:1990PNAS...87.6547S. doi:10.1073/pnas.87.17.6547. PMC 54573. PMID 2168552.
  24. ^ Law, JL; Chen, C; Wong, J; Hockman, D; Santer, DM; Frey, SE; Belshe, RB; Wakita, T; Bukh, J; Jones, CT; Rice, CM; Abrignani, S; Tyrrell, DL; Houghton, M. (19 March 2013). "A hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine comprising envelope glycoproteins gpE1/gpE2 derived from a single isolate elicits broad cross-genotype neutralizing antibodies in humans". PLOS ONE. 8 (3): e59776. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...859776L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059776. PMC 3602185. PMID 23527266.
  25. ^ Houghton, M; Law, J; Tyrrell, DL (2013). "An inactivated hepatitis C virus vaccine on the horizon?". Gastroenterology. 145 (2): 285–288. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2013.06.029. PMID 23806539.
  26. ^ "University of Alberta virologist awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  27. ^ Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award 1992
  28. ^ Robert Koch Prize 1993
  29. ^ William Beaumont Prize 1994
  30. ^ Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award 2000
  31. ^ "List of Past AABB Award Recipients". aabb.org. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  32. ^ "The William H. Prusoff HEP DART Lifetime Achievement Award". Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  33. ^ "World-renowned virologist named recipient of Gairdner Award". 22 March 2013. Archived from the original on 12 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  34. ^ Boesveld, Sarah (20 March 2013). "Edmonton scientist turns down $100,000 'baby Nobel' because it shut out colleagues". Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  35. ^ "A Titanic actor, climate change trailblazer and banking boss: Meet UEA's newest honorary graduates". Eastern Daily Press. 11 June 2019. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  36. ^ "No. 63377". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2021. p. B2.

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