Nine hundred of the world's hepatitis C experts are meeting in Glasgow this week to discuss the latest research into the disease at the 14th International Symposium on Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses.

Among more than 400 studies being discussed, it will be revealed that scientists working on hepatitis C have discovered a powerful new drug, which has been shown to inhibit the virus in laboratory tests. The research findings represent an early but promising step towards treating the 170 million people worldwide estimated to be infected with hepatitis C.

The compound, developed by Arrow Therapeutics, has already successfully cleared Phase I clinical trials and Phase II trials are due to begin in the coming months.

Clinicians and scientists from around the world attending the conference will tackle a broad range of topics including fundamental research on the virus, the diseases that result from long-term infection and new approaches to eradicate or counter the effects of hepatitis C. Presentations on possible new anti-viral agents are expected to be among the most exciting sessions of the 5-day event, being held in the UK for the first time.

An estimated 285,000 people in the UK are infected, and around 9,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Scotland has the highest infection levels of hep C in the UK, with a particularly high prevalence rate in Glasgow. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against infection.

In an effort to ensure that the research presented at the conference reaches people living with the infection, organisers have given free access and exhibition space to a number of hep C patient support groups, including Glasgow-based C-Level and national groups Mainliners and The Hepatitis C Trust.

"Estimates suggest that there are four times more people infected with hepatitis C compared to HIV in the UK. Many people remain undiagnosed and are unaware of the possibility that they could develop serious liver complications arising from the virus" explained virus expert and conference organizer, Dr John McLauchlan who heads one of the two hepatitis C research programmes at the MRC Virology Unit in Glasgow. "The presence of such a high profile, international event in Scotland gives us the opportunity to draw the public's attention to this deadly virus, and the ongoing need for research into how we can combat it."

The 14th International Symposium on Hepatitis C Virus and Related Viruses takes place in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall from 9 - 13 September 2007. Further information on the conference is available at

Available for interview

-- Conference organising committee

- Dr John McLauchlan, Programme Leader, MRC Virology Unit, Glasgow
- Dr Arvind Patel, Programme Leader, MRC Virology Unit, Glasgow
- Professor Mark Harris, Chair of Virology, University of Leeds
- Dr Elizabeth McCruden, Consultant Virologist, Welsh Specialist Virology Centre, Cardiff

-- Arrow Therapeutics

- Professor Ken Powell

The MRC Virology Unit carries out fundamental research relating to viruses of importance in human disease, with the general aim of constructing a solid and extensive foundation of knowledge and understanding of these viral pathogens that will underpin development of control measures. (

The Medical Research Council is dedicated to improving human health through excellent science. It invests on behalf of the UK taxpayer. Its work ranges from molecular level science to public health research, carried out in universities, hospitals and a network of its own units and institutes. The MRC liaises with the Health Departments, the National Health Service and industry to take account of the public's needs. The results have led to some of the most significant discoveries in medical science and benefited the health and wealth of millions of people in the UK and around the world.