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Charles Rice to receive 2015 Robert Koch Award

Charles M. Rice, Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor in Virology, has been selected to receive the 2015 Robert Koch Award. Rice will share the €100,000 prize, awarded by the Robert Koch Foundation of Germany, with Ralf Bartenschlager from Heidelberg University for their groundbreaking work on the hepatitis C virus. The scientists will be honored for their achievements at a formal award ceremony in November.

113012-rice-DautrebandeprizeThe Robert Koch Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Berlin, Germany, that supports medical advancement, primarily in the field of infectious disease, through the promotion of basic scientific research. Robert Koch, the award’s namesake, was the founder of modern bacteriology and won the 1905 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for his research in this discipline. From 1891 until his retirement in 1904, Koch was head of the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin. The Robert Koch award is conferred annually and is one of Germany’s most prestigious scientific awards.

The hepatitis C virus is a major cause of chronic liver disease and acute hepatitis, and affects approximately 130 to 170 million people worldwide. The basic research discoveries made by Rice and Bartenschlager have laid the foundation for newly developed treatments that permanently eliminate the virus in the majority of treated patients. Rice’s lab at Rockefeller, the Laboratory of Virology and Infectious Disease, produced the first infectious molecular clone of the hepatitis C virus and aims to generate effective therapies and vaccines by investigating virus replication and virus-host cell interaction. Both Rice and Bartenschlager are credited with helping to understand the virus’ lifecycle, uncovering promising antiviral targets, and creating reproducible cell culture systems for basic studies that may also be used for drug screening and testing.

Rice earned his bachelor’s degree from University of California Davis in 1974 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1981. Prior to joining Rockefeller, he was a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis for 15 years. Considered one of the world’s leading virologists, Rice is a past president of the American Society for Virology, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The announcement marks the second consecutive year that a Rockefeller faculty member has received the Robert Koch Award; last year’s award went to Jean-Laurent Casanova for his work on understanding host genes and their products in infectious diseases. In addition, Ralph Steinman won in 1999 for discovering dendritic cells and their influence on immunity, and René Jules Dubos was the first Rockefeller recipient of the prize in 1960.