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Portrait of Harvey Alter

Harvey Alter, MD
Distinguished NIH Investigator
Department of Transfusion Medicine

Academic Degrees
MD, University of Rochester School of Medicine BA, University of Rochester


Phone: 301-496-8393

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Dr. Harvey Alter earned his medical degree at the University of Rochester Medical School, and trained in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital and at the University Hospitals of Seattle. In 1961, he came to the National Institutes of Health as a clinical associate. He then spent several years with Georgetown University, returning to NIH in 1969 to join the Clinical Center's Department of Transfusion Medicine as a senior investigator becoming Chief of the Infectious Diseases Section and Associate Director of Research in the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the NIH Clinical Center.

Dr. Alter co-discovered the Australia antigen, a key to detecting hepatitis B virus. Later, Dr. Alter spearheaded a project at the Clinical Center that created a storehouse of blood samples used to uncover the causes and reduce the risk of transfusion-associated hepatitis. He was 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.

In 2013, Dr. Alter was honored with the distinguished Canada Gairdner International Award for his critical contribution to the discovery and isolation of the hepatitis C virus, which has lead to development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents and for his key role in reducing the risk of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis.

In 2000, Dr. Alter was awarded the prestigious Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award and in 2002, he became the first Clinical Center scientist elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and in that same year was elected to the Institute of Medicine. Only a small number of scientists nationally are elected to both these scientific societies.

Selected Honors and Awards

Recipient Distinguished Achievement Award, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, 2011; Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship, American Association of Blood Banks, 2011; Appointed as NIH Distinguished Investigator, 2008; Presidential Award, Society for Advancement of Blood Management, 2006; Recipient of the First International Award for Science, INSERM, Paris France, 2004; American College of Physicians Award for Outstanding Work in Science, 2004; Elected to Mastership in the American College of Physicians, 2003; Elected to National Academy of Sciences, 2002; Distinguished Scientist Award American Liver Foundation, 2002; Presidential Award, International Society of Blood Transfusion, 2002; Elected to the Institute of Medicine, 2002; Albert Lasker Clinical Research Award, 2000; James Blundell Prize, British Blood Transfusion Service, 1994; Karl Landsteiner Award, American Association of Blood Banks, 1992, Elected to the American Association of Physicians, 1992; PHS Distinguished Service Medal, 1977

Selected Publications


The Liver: Biology and Pathobiology (5th Edition). Arias IM (Ed.), Alter HJ, Boyer JL, Cohen DE, Fausto N, Shafritz DA, Wolkoff AW (Assoc. Eds). Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, UK. 2009.


Alter HJ, Esteban JI. Transfusion-transmitted hepatitis. In Rossi's Principles of Transfusion Medicine, 4th edition (Simon TL, Snyder EL, Solheim BG, Stowell CP, Strauss RG, eds). American Association of Blood Banks Press, Bethesda, MD 2008

Alter HJ, Stramer S, Dodd R. Emerging Infectious Diseases That Threaten the Blood Supply. Seminars in Hematology 2007; 44: 32-41

Alter HJ, Esteban JI. The Hepatitis C Virus: From Bench to Bedside. In Clinical Hematology, Young NS, Gerson SL, High KA (editors). Elsevier, Philadelphia 2006, pp 1003-1014

Alter, H.J., Purcell, R.H., Feinstone, S.M., and Tegtmeier, G.E. Non-A, Non-B hepatitis: its relationship to cytomeglalovirus, to chronic hepatitis and to direct and indirect test methods. In: Viral Hepatitis, edited by Szmuness, W., Alter, H.J., and Maynard, J.E.Philadelphia:1981 International Symposium Franklin Institute Press, 1982, p.279-294.


Allison RD, Cantilena CC, Koziol D, Schechterly CS, Ness MD, Gibble J, Kleiner DE, Ghany MG, Alter HJ. A 25-year retrospective-prospective study of the clinical and histologic outcomes of HCV infection and its modes of transmission in a cohort of initially asymptomatic blood donors. JID 2012;206:654-661.

Farci P, Wollenberg K, Diaz G, Engle RE, Lai ME, Klenerman P, Purcell RH, Pybus OG, Alter HJ. Profibrinogenic chemokines and viral evolution predict rapid progression of hepatitis C to cirrhosis. PNAS 2012;109:14562-14567

Zhang P, Zhong L, Struble EB, Watanabe H, Kachko A, Mihalik K, Virata-Theimer ML, Alter HJ, Feinstone S, Major M. Depletion of interfering antibodies in chronic hepatitis C patients and vaccinated chimpanzees reveals broad cross genotype neutralizing activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2009;106:7537-41.

Tanaka Y, Hanada K, Mizokami M, Yeo AET, Shih JW, Gojobori T, Alter HJ. A Comparison of Molecular Clock of Hepatitis C Virus in the United States and Japan Predicts That Hepatocellular Carcinoma Incidence in the US Will Increase Over the Next Two Decades. PNAS 2002; 99:15584-15589.

Farci P, Shimoda A, Coiana A, Diaz G, Peddis G, Melpolder JC, Strazzera A, Chien DY, Munoz SJ, Balestrieri A, Purcell RH and Alter HJ. The Outcome of Acute Hepatitis C Predicted by the Evolution of the Viral Quasispecies. Science 288:339-344, 2000.

Conry-Cantilena, C., VanRaden, M., Gibble, J., Melpolder, J.C., Shakil, A.O., Viladomiu, L., Chueng, L., DiBisceglie, A., Hoofnagle, J., Shih, J., Kaslow, R., Ness, P., and Alter, H.J. Routes of infection, viremia, and liver disease in blood donors found to have hepatitis C virus infection. N Engl JMed 1996;334:1691-1696.

Leitman, S.F., Klein, H.G., Melpolder, J.J., Read, E.J., Esteban, J.I., Leonard, E.M., Harvath, L., Shih, J.W., Nealon, R., Foy, J., Darr, F., and Alter, HJ Clinical Implications of Positive Tests for Antibodies to HIV-1 in Asymptomatic Blood Donors. N Engl J Med 1989;321:917-924.

Alter, H.J., Purcell, R.H., Shih, J.W., Melpolder, J.C., Houghton, M., Choo, Q.L., and Kou, G. Detection of Antibody to Hepatitis C Virus in Prospectively Followed Transfusion Recipients with Acute and Chronic Non-A, Non-B Hepatitis. N Engl J Med 1989;321:1494-1500.

Feinstone, S.M., Kapikian, A.Z., Purcell, R.H., Alter, H.J., and Holland, P.V. Transfusion-associated hepatitis not due to viral hepatitis type A or B. N Engl J Med 1975;292:767-770.

Alter, H.J., Holland, P.V., Purcell, R.H., Lander, J.J., Feinstone, S.M., Morrow, A.G., and Schmidt, P.J. Postransfusion hepatitis after exclusion of the commercial and hepatitis B antigen positive donor. Ann Int Med 1972;77:691-699.

Blumberg, B.S., Alter, H.J., and Visnich, S. A "new" antigen in leukemia sera. JAMA 1965;191:541-546.

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This page last updated on 05/02/2018

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