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2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for developing a way of editing genes likened to “molecular scissors” that offer the promise of one day curing inherited diseases.

Working on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer A. Doudna came up with a method known as CRISPR-cas9 that can be used to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms. It was the first time two women have won the chemistry Nobel together — adding to the small number of female laureates in the sciences, where women have long received less recognition for their work than men.

The scientists’ work allows for laser-sharp snips in the long strings of DNA that make up the “code of life,” allowing researchers to precisely edit specific genes to remove errors that lead to disease.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to groundbreaking new medical treatments.”

Gustafsson said that, as a result, any genome can now be edited “to fix genetic damage.”


Dr. Francis Collins, who led the drive to map the human genome, said the technology “has changed everything” about how to approach diseases with a genetic cause, such as sickle cell disease.

“You can draw a direct line from the success of the human genome project to the power of CRISPR-cas to make changes in the instruction book,” said Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health that helped fund Doudna’s work.

But many also cautioned that the technology must be used carefully and that it raises serious ethical questions. Much of the world became more aware of CRISPR in 2018, when Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed he had helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, to try to engineer resistance to future infection with the AIDS virus. His work was denounced as unsafe human experimentation because of the risk of causing unintended changes that could pass to future generations, and he’s currently imprisoned in China.

In September, an international panel of experts issued a report saying it’s still too soon to try to make genetically edited babies because the science isn’t advanced enough to ensure safety, but they mapped a pathway for countries that want to consider it.

“Being able to selectively edit genes means that you are playing God in a way,” said American Chemistry Society President Luis Echegoyen, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas El Paso.

Charpentier, 51, spoke of the shock of winning.

“Strangely enough I was told a number of times (that I’d win), but when it happens you’re very surprised and you feel that it’s not real,” she told reporters by phone from Berlin after the award was announced in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “But obviously it’s real, so I have to get used to it now.”

When asked

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for genome editing tool

Oct. 7 (UPI) — A French scientist and an American professor were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for their work in developing a “genetic scissors” used to fight human diseases.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French-born researcher and director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Germany, and Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, were given the chemistry prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced in Stockholm.

The pair worked together to help develop the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editor, which is capable of cutting DNA genomes in precise locations and allowing researchers to add or delete pieces of genetic material or make changes by replacing an existing segment with a customized sequence.

The tool’s development has led to widespread applications for genome editing — and is faster, more accurate, more efficient and less expensive than other existing methods.

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is used to research a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and sickle cell disease. It also holds some promise for treating and preventing complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, mental illness and HIV/AIDS.

Genome editing has also found a strong presence in agriculture, where it’s used to develop crops resistant to mold, pests and drought.

After publishing an initial discovery in 2011, Charpentier teamed with Doudna to develop the “genetic scissors” to make it easier to use. The next year, they proved it could be controlled and used to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a statement Wednesday. “It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Due to ethical considerations, scientists are limited to using CRISPR/Cas9 in humans on somatic cells — cells other than egg and sperm cells. Changes made in those cells are not passed from one generation to the next.

The Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded Monday to Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton for their work on curing Hepatitis C; the prize for physics was given Tuesday to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their research on black holes.

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be awarded Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and the prize for economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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U.S., British hepatitis C researchers win Nobel Prize in Medicine

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Three scientists who each played a role in finding a cure for hepatitis C have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Nobel Foundation announced Monday.

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton won the 2020 prize for their separate work in battling hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease that causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The disease is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide, making it a global health threat on a scale comparable to HIV infection and tuberculosis.

The prize was announced during a ceremony at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the honor each year.

Two other types of hepatitis — A and B — had been identified earlier, but a still-unknown form had continued to affect blood transfusion patients.

In the 1970s, Alter, working at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, first showed that the condition was caused by a previously unknown, distinct virus, later named the hepatitis C virus.

Identifying the virus, however, eluded researchers for more than a decade. Houghton, then working for the Chiron Corp. in California, was able to isolate the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989, providing a key breakthrough.

With the virus identified, researchers still needed to prove that it alone was capable of causing hepatitis. Rice, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, provided the link in 2005 after eight years of research.

The scientists’ contributions have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

The Nobel Institute’s two other scientific prizes — for physics and chemistry — will be announced Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be followed by the literature prize on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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Americans and Briton win Nobel Prize in medicine for discovery of Hepatitis C virus

Researchers Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus, the committe announced on Monday.

Prior to their work, the committee said, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases was still unexplained.

“The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives,” the statement shared by the committee said.

Alter and Rice were both born in the U.S. while Hougton was born in the U.K.

An estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection, according to the World Health Organization. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis, scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage, or liver cancer.

Each laureate made a significant contribution to Hepatitis C research, with much of their work dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

The studies of transfusion-associated hepatitis conducted by Alter demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis.

“To see so many people get cured is astounding,” Alter told the committee after getting the news Monday morning that he will share the prize.

Houghton worked to isolate the genome of the new virus while Rice provided the final evidence showing that Hepatitis C virus alone could cause hepatitis.

Thanks to their work, highly sensitive blood tests and antiviral treatments for the virus are now available.

“For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population,” the committee said.

The award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded 110 times to 219 Nobel laureates between 1901 and 2019.

Two Americans and a Briton won the medicine prize last year for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

This year, the medicine prize carries particular significance amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance of medical research.

The pandemic has meant that the Nobel ceremonies will have a lower profile this year with many of the traditional celebrations postponed or re-jigged as digital events.

The foundation has cancelled the banquet, the highlight of the celebrations that takes place every December, and the traditional prize-giving ceremony in Stockholm’s Concert Hall will be replaced by a televised event where winners receive their prizes in their home nations.

Prizes in physics, chemistry,

American, British Hepatitis C researchers win Nobel Prize in Medicine

Oct. 5 (UPI) — Three scientists who each played a role in finding a cure for Hepatitis C have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Nobel Foundation announced Monday.

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton won the 2020 prize for their separate work in battling Hepatitis C, a blood-borne disease which causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

The disease is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and causes more than 1 million deaths per year worldwide, making it a global health threat on a scale comparable to HIV-infection and tuberculosis.

The prize was announced during a ceremony at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the honor each year.

Two other types of hepatitis — A and B — had been identified earlier, but a still-unknown form had continued to affect blood transfusion patients.

In the 1970s, Alter, working at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, first showed that the condition was caused by a previously unknown, distinct virus, later named the Hepatitis C virus.

Identifying the virus, however, eluded researchers for more than a decade. Houghton, then working for the Chiron Corp. in California, was able to isolate the genetic sequence of the virus in 1989, providing a key breakthrough.

With the virus now identified, researchers still needed to prove that it alone was capable of causing hepatitis. Rice, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, provided the link in 2005 after eight years of research.

The scientists’ contributions have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating Hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

The Nobel Institute’s two other scientific prizes — for physics and chemistry — will be announced Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be followed by the literature prize on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and for economic sciences next Monday.

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3 win Nobel medicine prize for discovering hepatitis C virus

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton won the Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus, a major source of liver disease that affects millions worldwide.

Announcing the prize in Stockholm, the Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work identified a major source of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the previously discovered hepatitis A and B viruses. Their work, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, has helped saved millions of lives, the committee said.

“Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the committee said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

The World Health Organization estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis C worldwide and 400,000 deaths from it each year. The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis requiring liver transplants.

The medicine prize carried particular significance this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world.

Will Irving, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, said that identifying hepatitis C had been the “holy grail” in medicine.

“After hepatitis A and B were discovered in the 1970s, it was clear there was still at least one other virus or more that were causing liver damage,” he said.

“We knew there was a virus in the blood supply, because when people had blood transfusion they would get liver damage,” Irving said. “It was recognized as a risk but there was nothing we could do. We didn’t know what the virus was and we couldn’t test for it.”

Nobel Committee member Patrik Ernfors drew a parallel between this year’s prize and the current rush by millions of scientists around the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“The first thing you need to do is to identify the causing virus,” he told reporters. “And once that has been done, that is, in itself, the starting point for development of drugs to treat the disease and also to develop vaccines against the disorder.”

“So the actual discovery, viral discovery itself, is a critical moment,” said Ernfors.

Unlike hepatitis A, which is transmitted via food or water and causes an acute infection that can last a few weeks, hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood.

American scientist Baruch Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and received the 1976 Nobel Prize in medicine, but this did not explain all cases of chronic hepatitis, a disease that was becoming more common even in apparently healthy people who had received or given blood.

“Before the discovery

US-British trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for Hepatitis C discovery

Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton Michael Houghton won the Nobel Medicine Prize on Monday for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, the Nobel jury said.

The three were honoured for their “decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world,” the jury said.

Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have “essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health”, the Nobel committee said.

Their discovery also 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,” the jury said.

The award for work on a virus comes as the world battles the new coronavirus pandemic.

The trio will share the Nobel prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million, 950,000 euros).

They would normally receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

But the in-person ceremony has been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, replaced with a televised ceremony showing the laureates receiving their awards in their home countries.

Last year, the honour went to US researchers William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza and Britain’s Peter Ratcliffe on for discoveries on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

The winners of this year’s physics prize will be revealed on Tuesday, followed by the chemistry Prize on Wednesday. 

The literature prize will be announced on Thursday and the peace prize on Friday, with speculation that Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and other climate activists or press freedom groups could get the nod for the latter.

The economics prize will wrap up the Nobel prize season on Monday, October 12.

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Scientists who helped identify Hepatitis C virus win 2020 Nobel Medicine Prize

The Daily Beast

Photos Show Why Miami Public Schools Could Be the Next Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Debacle

MIAMI—Last week, a few days before Donald Trump revealed he came down with COVID-19, Karla Hernandez-Mats went on a coronavirus safety fact-finding mission in South Florida schools ahead of their reopening on Monday.The president of United Teachers of Dade, the local teachers union, Hernandez-Mats said she and her colleagues conducted surprise inspection visits at 17 Miami-area schools that suggested administrators were still scrambling to put safety measures in place.At Miami Springs Senior High, one of the 17 schools inspected, administrators initially refused to allow her colleague, United Teachers of Dade First Vice-President Antonio White, to enter the building and called a police resource officer on him, the union officials told The Daily Beast.“When administrators act like that, their schools are usually not prepared,” White said in an interview. “That was the case at Miami Springs.”COVID-Skeptical Florida Guv Outdoes Himself, Lifts All Restrictions on Restaurants and BarsFor instance, the school appears to be supplying teachers with alcohol-free hand sanitizer, which may be ineffective in killing coronavirus, the union officials said, providing The Daily Beast with a photo of just that. (The Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidance recommends people use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent ethanol-based or 70 percent isopropanol-based.) Union officials also provided photos showing decals marking 6-foot distance requirements that were already peeling off the sidewalks near the school’s entrance, and desks arranged in such a way that does not allow for 6-foot social distancing.Reached by phone, Miami Springs principal Torossian said he was unaware of police being called on the union official and referred further questions to the school district’s media relations department. Spokeswoman Jacquelyn Calzadilla did not specifically address what had occurred at Miami Springs, but she said “our school site administrators are working around the clock to ensure a safe return to the schoolhouse for our students and employees.”The flap illustrates the daunting task facing the public school system in Miami-Dade County, which has been the epicenter of Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak for most of the pandemic. More than 10,000 teachers and 133,000 students begin filing into 340 schools this week on a staggered schedule. This after the Miami-Dade School Board voted to resume in-person learning under pressure from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Cocoran, a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee who threatened to cut the school district’s funding if classes did not resume by early October.Miami-Dade’s daily positivity rate rolling average for the 14 days ending on Oct. 4 stood at 4.78 percent, just below the 5 percent positivity rate that the World Health Organization recommends maintaining for two weeks before lifting shelter-at-home and social distancing protocols. During the same 14-day period, Miami-Dade reported 5,456 new cases, bringing its total to 172,205.School reopenings have been a mess of infection, quarantine, and closure across America in recent weeks. But conversations with teachers, labor leaders, and experts in South Florida painted a picture of Miami schools as a new guinea

3 win Nobel medicine award for hepatitis C virus discovery

FILE - In this April 17, 2015, file photo, a national library employee shows a gold Nobel Prize medal in Bogota, Colombia. The Nobels, with new winners announced starting Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, often concentrate on unheralded, methodical, basic science.

FILE – In this April 17, 2015, file photo, a national library employee shows a gold Nobel Prize medal in Bogota, Colombia. The Nobels, with new winners announced starting Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, often concentrate on unheralded, methodical, basic science.

AP

Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice, and British scientist Michael Houghton were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology on Monday for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

Announcing the prize in Stockholm on Monday, the Nobel Committee noted that the trio’s work helped explain a major source of blood-borne hepatitis that couldn’t be explained by the hepatitis A and B viruses. Their work make possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives, the committee said.

“Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the committee said.

“Their discovery also allowed the rapid development of antiviral drugs directed at hepatitis C,” it added. “For the first time in history, the disease can now be cured, raising hopes of eradicating hepatitis C virus from the world population.”

The World Health Organization estimates there are over 70 million cases of hepatitis worldwide and 400,000 deaths each year. The disease is chronic and a major cause of liver inflammation and cancer.

The prestigious Nobel award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

The medicine prize carried particular significance this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the importance that medical research has for societies and economies around the world.

The Nobel Committee often recognizes basic science that has laid the foundations for practical applications in common use today.

The award is the first of six prizes being announced through Oct. 12. The other prizes are for outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

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