The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has announced its annual awards, honoring several researchers who made major advancements in the development of hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment. The prizes, often referred to as “America’s Nobels,” can be a precursor to winning a Nobel Prize, Science Mag reports.
The Lasker Foundation’s clinical research prize was awarded to Ralf Bartenschlager of University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany, Charles Rice of The Rockefeller University in New York City and Michael Sofia of Arbutus Biopharma in Canada. Each scientist did integral work in discovering and testing the cures for HCV, which have on the market since late 2013.
Drugs such as sofosbuvir, ledipasvir and daclatasvir, all successfully released over the last three years, are the first nontoxic treatments for hepatitis C. These treatments came directly from the work of Bartenschlager, Rice and Sofia. The three researchers worked independently to help conquer obstacles that had prevented researchers from tackling the viral liver disease, including replicating HCV in a lab setting and developing antiviral medications the human body would not reject.
Other Lasker awards went to scientists who researched how humans adapt to available oxygen and how cells copy DNA in the body. Historically, the prestigious prizes recognize scientific work that helps diagnose and treat human disease.