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Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Hepatitis B Research

Stephan Urban, PhD

Stephan Urban, PhD, distinguished professor and globally recognized virologist, has been chosen to receive its 2023 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize.

Dr. Urban developed bulevirtide (brand name Hepcludex), the first drug approved to treat hepatitis D, which is a serious coinfection that only exists in combination with hepatitis B. Developed by Dr. Urban and his team at Heidelberg University Hospital, bulevirtide blocks the entry of the hepatitis B and hepatitis D viruses into the liver cell. Hepcludex, the first commercial formulation of bulevirtide, was approved by the European Commission in July 2020.

Studies have estimated that 12 to 74 million people carrying the hepatitis B virus have been coinfected with hepatitis D virus (HDV) worldwide. Chronic HDV infection results in often fatal complications and a higher risk of liver cancer.

“Dr. Urban’s innovative research has helped us understand key components of hepatitis B and D virology, and he is a pioneer in the development of new therapeutics for hepatitis B and D,” Hepatitis B Foundation President Chari A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, said. “The hepatitis B and D communities owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Timothy M. Block, PhD, co-founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation and a virologist who is one of the world’s leading experts on hepatitis B, said: “Prof. Urban is one of the world’s most innovative and creative scientists, taking an idea for a drug from concept all the way to practice, where it’s now being used to treat people. Honoring this kind of accomplishment is exactly what we intended for the Blumberg Prize.”

Prof. Urban is head of Translational Virology in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, at Heidelberg University Hospital. He also is Project Coordinator for the DZIF (German Center for Infection research) TTU Hepatitis Program. Prof. Urban was awarded with the DZIF Research Award in 2014, received the Pettenkofer Prize in 2011, the distinguished award in Hepatitis B Virus research in 2021 and the Wolfgang Gerok prize in 2022.

Prof. Urban’s research interests include molecular mechanisms of hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus/host interactions with a focus on the early and late events of viral infection; identification of hepadnaviral receptors and structural analyses of virus receptor interactions; development of novel cell culture systems for HBV and HDV; clinical development of entry inhibitors for HBV and HDV infection; and analyses of innate immune responses upon HBV and HDV infection.

Prof. Urban completed his Diploma in Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen in 1991 and was awarded a doctorate in 1995 under Prof. P.H. Hofschneider at the Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Martinsried. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Centre for Molecular Biology, Heidelberg University, with Prof. H. Schaller and became an independent group leader in the department of molecular virology headed by Prof. Ralf Bartenschlager,

The Baruch S. Blumberg Prize is the Hepatitis B Foundation’s highest honor. It is named for Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, DPhil, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1976 for discovering the hepatitis B virus. He was instrumental in the creation of the Foundation, served on our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and was the Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar from 1992 until his death in 2011. The Foundation’s research arm was renamed the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute in his honor.

A committee of former Blumberg Prize recipients annually selects a new honoree. Past recipients include Dr. Harvey Alter, who was among the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology; Dr. Anna Lok, assistant dean for clinical research, University of Michigan Medical School; and Dr. John Taylor, professor emeritus, Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Stephan Urban, PhD
Stephan Urban, PhD

Baruch S. Blumberg Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Hepatitis B Research

Stephan Urban, PhD

Stephan Urban, PhD, distinguished professor and globally recognized virologist, has been chosen to receive its 2023 Baruch S. Blumberg Prize.

Dr. Urban developed bulevirtide (brand name Hepcludex), the first drug approved to treat hepatitis D, which is a serious coinfection that only exists in combination with hepatitis B. Developed by Dr. Urban and his team at Heidelberg University Hospital, bulevirtide blocks the entry of the hepatitis B and hepatitis D viruses into the liver cell. Hepcludex, the first commercial formulation of bulevirtide, was approved by the European Commission in July 2020.

Studies have estimated that 12 to 74 million people carrying the hepatitis B virus have been coinfected with hepatitis D virus (HDV) worldwide. Chronic HDV infection results in often fatal complications and a higher risk of liver cancer.

“Dr. Urban’s innovative research has helped us understand key components of hepatitis B and D virology, and he is a pioneer in the development of new therapeutics for hepatitis B and D,” Hepatitis B Foundation President Chari A. Cohen, DrPH, MPH, said. “The hepatitis B and D communities owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Timothy M. Block, PhD, co-founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation and a virologist who is one of the world’s leading experts on hepatitis B, said: “Prof. Urban is one of the world’s most innovative and creative scientists, taking an idea for a drug from concept all the way to practice, where it’s now being used to treat people. Honoring this kind of accomplishment is exactly what we intended for the Blumberg Prize.”

Prof. Urban is head of Translational Virology in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Virology, at Heidelberg University Hospital. He also is Project Coordinator for the DZIF (German Center for Infection research) TTU Hepatitis Program. Prof. Urban was awarded with the DZIF Research Award in 2014, received the Pettenkofer Prize in 2011, the distinguished award in Hepatitis B Virus research in 2021 and the Wolfgang Gerok prize in 2022.

Prof. Urban’s research interests include molecular mechanisms of hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus/host interactions with a focus on the early and late events of viral infection; identification of hepadnaviral receptors and structural analyses of virus receptor interactions; development of novel cell culture systems for HBV and HDV; clinical development of entry inhibitors for HBV and HDV infection; and analyses of innate immune responses upon HBV and HDV infection.

Prof. Urban completed his Diploma in Biochemistry at the University of Tübingen in 1991 and was awarded a doctorate in 1995 under Prof. P.H. Hofschneider at the Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie, Martinsried. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Centre for Molecular Biology, Heidelberg University, with Prof. H. Schaller and became an independent group leader in the department of molecular virology headed by Prof. Ralf Bartenschlager,

The Baruch S. Blumberg Prize is the Hepatitis B Foundation’s highest honor. It is named for Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, DPhil, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1976 for discovering the hepatitis B virus. He was instrumental in the creation of the Foundation, served on our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and was the Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar from 1992 until his death in 2011. The Foundation’s research arm was renamed the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute in his honor.

A committee of former Blumberg Prize recipients annually selects a new honoree. Past recipients include Dr. Harvey Alter, who was among the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology; Dr. Anna Lok, assistant dean for clinical research, University of Michigan Medical School; and Dr. John Taylor, professor emeritus, Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Community Commitment Award

Rev. Jason Crum Escalera, #JustB Storyteller

Rev. Jason Crum Escalera’s personal motto is, “Let me tell you something hep B: I have you; you don’t have me.”

Rev. Crum Escalera, describes himself as a “compassionate HIV and hepatitis B patient advocate.” He is one of our very compelling #justB storytellers and is always quick to share his experiences when it can help others. He is focused on saving lives by educating others who are infected to live healthier lives and educating those who are not infected about how they can protect themselves from hepatitis B and HIV. Rev. Crum Escalera works to educate young people, particularly high school students, about prevention and delivers testimonials of his own hopes and strength. He is well known in the hepatitis B and HIV advocacy communities and strives to be “a voice to the voiceless around the world.”

Rev. Crum Escalera was living in New York City and struggling with addiction when he was diagnosed with hepatitis B. Not long afterward, his mother passed away. Those two events pushed him into recovery from addiction, and he moved home to his native Kansas. However. he could not find a physician knowledgeable about treating hepatitis B. After a disastrous experience with one provider, Rev. Crum Escalera fell into depression and attempted suicide. Finally, he located a caring and knowledgeable doctor in St. Louis who gave him hope and effective medical care. Rev. Crum Escalera found strength in his most difficult time and now approaches others with a true understanding and deep empathy.

Rev. Crum Escalera credits his supportive husband, Donald for helping him overcome the many challenges he faced in recent years.

Rev. Jason Crum Escalera
Rev. Jason Crum Escalera

Community Commitment Award

Rev. Jason Crum Escalera, #JustB Storyteller

Rev. Jason Crum Escalera’s personal motto is, “Let me tell you something hep B: I have you; you don’t have me.”

Rev. Crum Escalera, describes himself as a “compassionate HIV and hepatitis B patient advocate.” He is one of our very compelling #justB storytellers and is always quick to share his experiences when it can help others. He is focused on saving lives by educating others who are infected to live healthier lives and educating those who are not infected about how they can protect themselves from hepatitis B and HIV. Rev. Crum Escalera works to educate young people, particularly high school students, about prevention and delivers testimonials of his own hopes and strength. He is well known in the hepatitis B and HIV advocacy communities and strives be “a voice to the voiceless around the world.”

Rev. Crum Escalera was living in New York City and struggling with addiction when he was diagnosed with hepatitis B. Not long afterward, his mother passed away. Those two events pushed him into recovery from addiction, and he moved home to his native Kansas. However. he could not find a physician knowledgeable about treating hepatitis B. After a disastrous experience with one provider, Rev. Crum Escalera fell into depression and attempted suicide. Finally, he located a caring and knowledgeable doctor in St. Louis who gave him hope and effective medical care. Rev. Crum Escalera found strength in his most difficult time and now approaches others with a true understanding and deep empathy.

Rev. Crum Escalera credits his supportive husband, Donald for helping him overcome the many challenges he faced in recent years.

Milestone Achievement Award

Carol & Edmund Blake Foundation for Their Generous Support

The Carol and Edmund Blake Foundation was created in 2015 to promote programs specializing and emphasizing research in the medical fields as well as educational and after school programs for communities in need. Through its grants, the foundation has helped many communities in need and many health-related non-profit organizations realize their goals and outcomes.

Eric Freedgood on behalf of the Carol & Edmund Blake Foundation

Eric began his professional career in 2003 after graduating with honors from Binghamton University. Upon graduating, he joined Ernst and Young (EY) where he audited and valued complex derivative instruments for large financial institutions, banks and funds. It was during this time he obtained his CPA license which he still holds today. After his time at EY he joined Pinnacle Associates, Ltd- a Registered Investment Advisor in 2006 as an associate portfolio manager. In 2009 Eric obtained his Chartered Financial Analyst designation which he currently maintains. Over the years at Pinnacle, Eric has introduced many new portfolio strategies to clients that address current market and client needs and circumstances. Eric has focused his efforts on helping high net worth clients as well as small and medium sized institutions achieve their growth, income and risk-defined goals. In 2011, Eric was asked to be a partner in the firm, which he gladly accepted. In 2020, given many of the new initiatives brought to Pinnacle over the years, Eric was asked to serve as the firm’s Chief Innovation Officer- a new role he is very excited about to ensure discovery and implementation of new strategies, tools and ideas in the investment program.

Milestone Achievement Award

Carol & Edmund Blake Foundation for Their Generous Support

The Carol and Edmund Blake Foundation was created in 2015 to promote programs specializing and emphasizing research in the medical fields as well as educational and after school programs for communities in need. Through its grants, the foundation has helped many communities in need and many health-related non-profit organizations realize their goals and outcomes.

Eric Freedgood on behalf of the Carol & Edmund Blake Foundation

Eric began his professional career in 2003 after graduating with honors from Binghamton University. Upon graduating, he joined Ernst and Young (EY) where he audited and valued complex derivative instruments for large financial institutions, banks and funds. It was during this time he obtained his CPA license which he still holds today. After his time at EY he joined Pinnacle Associates, Ltd- a Registered Investment Advisor in 2006 as an associate portfolio manager. In 2009 Eric obtained his Chartered Financial Analyst designation which he currently maintains. Over the years at Pinnacle, Eric has introduced many new portfolio strategies to clients that address current market and client needs and circumstances. Eric has focused his efforts on helping high net worth clients as well as small and medium sized institutions achieve their growth, income and risk-defined goals. In 2011, Eric was asked to be a partner in the firm, which he gladly accepted. In 2020, given many of the new initiatives brought to Pinnacle over the years, Eric was asked to serve as the firm’s Chief Innovation Officer- a new roll he is very excited about to ensure discovery and implementation of new strategies, tools and ideas in the investment program.

Gala Speakers

We are pleased to announce this year's speakers and honorees. Each of these distinguished individuals dedicates themselves to our common pursuit of working to help promote the cause of Hepatitis B support and prevention. Their wealth of knowledge and experience is pivotal to our continued success in the fight for people suffering from this disease. We are grateful for their commitment and they are excited to share in this anniversary celebration.

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH

Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH

President, Hepatitis B Foundation

Timothy M. Block, PhD

Timothy M. Block, PhD

Co-Founder, Hepatitis B Foundation
Executive Chair, Hepatitis B Foundation Board of Directors.

Jean Holmes, MBA

Jean Holmes, MBA

Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Hepatitis B Foundation

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