Charles M. Rice, Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor in Virology and head of the Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease, has been honored with the 2016 InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize for his work on the hepatitis C virus. Queen Mathilde of Belgium presented Rice with the prize at a ceremony at the Palais des Académies in Brussels.
Established in 1979, the award is given by the Baillet Latour Fund to recognize outstanding achievements in biomedical research for the benefit of human health. It is Belgium’s most important scientific prize and is worth €250,000.
Rice, who is also scientific and executive director of the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C, investigates how viruses propagate, interact with host cells, and cause disease. The hepatitis C virus, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, infects millions of people worldwide. There is no vaccine for it, and antiviral therapy is often ineffective. Discoveries made by Rice and his collaborators have helped form the basis of newly developed therapies that permanently eliminate the virus in the majority of treated patients. Rice’s lab created the first infectious molecular clone of the virus and established reproducible cell culture systems and animal models for studying its replication and virus–host cell interaction. Work in the Rice lab has also shed light on the life cycle of the hepatitis C virus and revealed promising antiviral targets and tools for drug discovery and optimization.
Before joining Rockefeller in 2000, Rice was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis for 14 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California, Davis, in 1974 and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1981. He is the recipient of the 2007 M.W. Beijerinck Virology Prize and the 2015 Robert Koch Award, among other honors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Rice is the second Rockefeller researcher to be honored with the annual prize. Jean-Laurent Casanova, professor and head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, won the award in 2011.