Dr. Harvey Alter
Dr. Harvey Alter, chief of clinical studies and associate director of research in the department of transfusion medicine at the Clinical Center, has been selected to receive the 2013 Canada Gairdner International Award on Oct. 24 in Toronto.
He shares the award with Dr. Daniel Bradley, consultant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Michael Houghton, researcher and professor at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, for their contributions to the discovery and isolation of the hepatitis C virus, which has led to development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents.
“Dr. Alter’s career-long achievements in blood safety have done much to advance the cause of human health,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “We at NIH are thrilled that he is being recognized with this prestigious international honor.”
Thirty years ago, about a third of transfused people received tainted blood, which later inflamed their livers, producing hepatitis (also called viral hepatitis), the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. Alter was the principal investigator on studies that identified non-A, non-B hepatitis, now called hepatitis C. His work was instrumental in providing the scientific basis for instituting blood donor screening programs that have decreased the incidence of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis to near zero.
“Dr. Alter’s research achievements in hepatitis have been transformative for public health practice in the U.S. and abroad,” said CC director Dr. John Gallin. “We are proud of his prominence in the field of biomedical research and the path he lays for the next generation of researchers.”
The Canada Gairdner International Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science and whose work has contributed significantly to improving the quality of human life. Begun in 1959, the awards have become Canada’s foremost national and international awards.
Alter earned his medical degree at the University of Rochester Medical School and trained in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, and at the University Hospitals of Seattle. He came to the Clinical Center as a senior investigator in 1969. In 2000, Alter was awarded the Clinical Lasker Award and in 2002, he became the first CC scientist elected to the National Academy of Sciences; in that same year he was elected to the Institute of Medicine.