“I thought it was because a freezer in the lab was warming up, or it was a wrong number,” he said. Even after getting over “being mad at the phone for ringing,” added Dr. Rice, a self-described night owl, “my initial impression was this had to be a crank phone call.”
Dr. Cameron, a frequent collaborator of Dr. Rice’s, described him as welcoming, generous and a dedicated and prolific mentor. “His lab has really populated the flavivirus field,” Dr. Cameron said, referring to the virus family that includes hepatitis C virus. “I was not formally a trainee, but I feel like I was adopted by him early on.”
Dr. Houghton, born in Britain, is a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology and the Li Ka Shing professor of virology at the University of Alberta. He is also director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the university. He earned his Ph.D. from King’s College London in 1977.
Shortly after the award’s announcement, scientists on social media noted that Dr. Houghton in 2013 declined to accept the Canada Gairdner International Award, which he criticized for failing to include his colleagues Dr. Choo and Dr. Kuo. But in a news conference on Monday, Dr. Houghton said he felt it would be “really too presumptuous” to turn down a Nobel, and highlighted the contributions of his colleagues, with whom he is now developing a hepatitis C vaccine.
“Great science is often a group of people,” he said. “Going forward, we somehow need to incorporate that.”
The Nobel science prizes have long been criticized for failing to amplify the achievements of women and people of color in the scientific community.
“While I am always happy to see virologists recognized for their excellent work, the Nobel committee continues its streak of recognizing the achievements of white men,” Dr. Rasmussen said. “I really wish the Nobel committee would consider recognizing equally substantive achievements by women or people of color, and by scientists outside of North America or Europe.”