Canadian Scientist Declines Prestigious Award After Colleagues Are Left Out

Michael Houghton, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta, was chosen to receive one of Canada’s prestigious Gairdner Awards. The honors are known as the “baby Nobels,” and each carries a $100,000 prize. But he said it would be unfair to accept the award because it left out two of his key collaborators on research that led to the discovery of the hepatitis-C virus. Their work led to screening tests that have essentially eliminated the spread of the virus through blood transfusions.

Dr. John Dirks, president and scientific director of the Gairdner, said the foundation stands by its choice of winners.

“We’re very proud of the adjudication system,” Dirks said of the selection process, which involves two panels of leading Canadian and international scientists. “We believe that we provided the correct analysis and got the right people.

“Obviously we’re disappointed because we would have liked to have honoured him,” Dirks said of Houghton.

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