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Michael Houghton (virologist)

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Name  Michael Houghton
Fields  Microbiology, Virology
Role  Scientist
Michael Houghton (scientist) wwwemfoleycomlibraryimageshoughton2jpg
Institutions  University of Alberta Chiron Corporation
Thesis  RNA Polymerases and Transcription in the Chicken Oviduct (1977)
Known for  Hepatitis C Hepatitis D
Notable awards  Robert Koch Prize 1993 Lasker Award 2000 Gairdner Foundation International Award 2013 (declined)
Alma mater  University of East Anglia, King\'s College London
Awards  Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, Robert Koch Prize
Institution  University of Alberta, Chiron Corporation
Similar  Harvey J Alter, Daniel W Bradley, Hans‑Georg Rammensee

Michael Houghton is a British scientist, who along with Qui-Lim Choo, George Kuo and Daniel W. Bradley, co-discovered Hepatitis C in 1989. He also co-discovered the Hepatitis D genome in 1986. The discovery of Hepatitis C 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. It is estimated that antibody testing has prevented at least 40,000 new infections per year in the US alone and many more worldwide. 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.


Early life and education

Michael Houghton (virologist) wwwcercgccaimageschairholdersvideohoughtonjpg

Born in the United Kingdom in the 1950s, at the age of 17 Houghton was inspired to become a microbiologist after reading about Louis Pasteur. Houghton graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in biological sciences in 1972 and subsequently completed his PhD in biochemistry at King's College London in 1977.


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 Hepatitis C.

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. 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. In other studies published during the same period, Houghton and collaborators linked hepatitis C with liver cancer.

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. The vaccine is currently in clinical trials.

Houghton holds 73 U.S. patents related to his research; a further seven patents are pending.


  • Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award (1992)
  • Robert Koch Prize (1993)
  • William Beaumont Prize (1994)
  • Beatrice Vitiello Award (1994)
  • International Hepatitis Foundation Award (1998)
  • Hans Popper Award (1999)
  • Lasker Award (2000)
  • Dale A. Smith Memorial Award (2005)
  • Hepdart Lifetime Achievement Award (2009)
  • In 2013 he became the first person to decline the $100,000 Gairdner Foundation International Award stating "I felt that it would be unfair of me to accept this award without the inclusion of two colleagues, Dr. Qui-Lim Choo and Dr. George Kuo."
  • References

    Michael Houghton (virologist) Wikipedia