Three Hepatitis C Researchers Win 2016 Lasker~DeBakey Award

Three Hepatitis C Researchers Win 2016 Lasker~DeBakey AwardSince 1945, the New York-based Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has worked to raise public support for medical research. The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has done this through recognizing and celebrating breakthroughs in medical research, public education, and advocacy. One of the ways the foundation celebrates the most important breakthroughs in these fields is to annually reward the very best with the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

This year, the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award will be given to three hepatitis C researchers.  The award’s three co-winners will be Michael J. Sofia,  Ralf F.W. Bartenschlager, and Charles M. Rice.

Michael J. Sofia

Michael J. Sofia will receive the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award  for his work on the hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. He is sofosbuvir’s lead inventor and partial name-sake.

Sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) is a treatment for hepatitis C. It can directly target the hep C virus and stop it from making copies of itself. The treatment works by attaching itself to the genetic information, called RNA, to block the virus from multiplying. It is able to cure hep C with shorter treatment times, better cure rates (curing more than 90% of patients), and less side effects than previous hep C treatments. Furthermore, sofosbuvir is also a part of Harvoni and Epclusa, two other new hep C treatments.

In an interview, Dr. Sofia remarked that “It’s pretty astounding to see how this drug has been able to transform people’s lives and certainly really change the future for” people with hepatitis C. (Peter Loftus, 2016)

Ralf F.W. Bartenschlager and Charles M. Rice

The Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award will also be awarded to Ralf F.W. Bartenschlager and Charles M. Rice for their work in developing a way to get the hep C virus to multiply inside lab-grown host cells. This system was then used by Dr. Michael J. Sofia and other researchers to test and create treatments.

The Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award comes with honorariums of $250,000 (USD) for each of the three winners and will be given out on September 23rd, in New York.

Sources: Scientists Honored for Hep C Research: Three medical researchers are among winners of Lasker Awards by Peter Loftus, published by The Wall Street Journal on September 13, 2016, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation’s website, and the 2016 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award YouTube video by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.