Mario Rizzetto was born in 1945 in Padova, Italy, and qualified in medicine and surgery from the University of Padova in 1969. He completed his internship in medicine at the University of Torino, and subsequently completed a research fellowship in immunology at Middlesex Hospital School of Medicine in London. Professor Rizzetto was a visiting researcher at the Laboratory for Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health from 1978 to 1979. He served for three years as Assistant Professor of Gastroenterology at Moriziano hospital in Torino, then as a Visiting Professor at the Infectious Diseases Laboratory in the Hepatitis Section of the US National Institutes of Health in Besethda, MD, and the Department of Virology at Georgetown University Medical School in Rockville, MD. He is currently Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Torino and San Jiovani Patista University Hospital.
Professor Rizzetto’s seminal contributions to hepatitis research culminated in his discovery – in 1977 – of the delta antigen (now known as hepatitis delta virus or HDV) and the elucidation of its role in fulminant and chronic hepatitis. The delta agent, which replicates only in the presence of the hepatitis B virus, had bewildered hepatitis researchers for many years. Its discovery was a major breakthrough that quickly amassed clinical, epidemiological and immunologic data characterizing the new agent.
In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, Professor Rizzetto received several other honors for his work in hepatology and gastroenterology. He is a member of many professional associations, including the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Association for the Study of the Liver. He is a past President of the Italian Society of Gastroenterology, and a past Secretary of the European Association for the Study of the Liver. He served as advisor to several committees as a result of his expertise on hepatitis and infectious diseases, including the World Health Organization and the Hepatitis Foundation International. In addition to serving on the editorial boards of many journals, Professor Rizzetto contributed extensively to the medical literature through his numerous publications in leading journals such as The Lancet, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. He is a co-editor of Oxford Textbook of Clinical Hepatology.
Professor Mario Rizzetto is recommended as a co-recipient of the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, 1405H. (1985) for Viral Hepatitis for his discovery and characterisation of the “delta antigen”. This seminal discovery is of vital important from two aspects, the clinical and the biological.