Michael Houghton

Michael Houghton

Director of Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (LKSAVI), Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Virology 2010-2017, Professor Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology.

Dr. Michael Houghton was the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology from 2010-2018 and is the Li Ka Shing Professor of Virology at the University of Alberta where he is also the Director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute. He was jointly named the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine along with Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice in recognition of the discovery of the hepatitis C (HCV) virus. His research in the field of viral hepatitis has led to improved blood safety, and hepatitis C treatment to the point where the viral infection can now be cured in virtually all patients. He has also been working on a HCV vaccine for the last 30 years in the US & Canada.

Born in the United Kingdom, Houghton graduated from the University of East Anglia with a BSc in biological sciences in 1972, and subsequently completed his PhD in biochemistry at King’s College, University of London in 1977.

Houghton joined G. D. Searle & Company in the UK studying human intereferon genes before moving to Chiron Corporation in 1982 where, together with colleagues Qui-Lim Choo and George Kuo, and Daniel W. Bradley from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they first discovered HCV in 1989. 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 and around the world.

Houghton was recruited to the University of Alberta in 2010 as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology in the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. In 2013, Houghton’s team at the University of Alberta showed that a vaccine derived from a single strain of Hepatitis C could prevent infection of cell cultures by most global strains of the virus