About 71 million people worldwide are affected by hepatitis C and depend on interferon. In the 1970s, Charles Weissmann developed a process to produce interferons on a large scale by cloning. This also made it possible to treat certain types of cancer, viral diseases and multiple sclerosis. His work in elucidating the basis for diseases caused by prions, including BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob, was groundbreaking. Weissmann became a pioneer in modern biotechnology when he founded his company, Biogen, in 1978.
Weissmann studied medicine and chemistry in Zurich, taught in New York as well as in Zurich, where he founded the Institute for Molecular Biology at the University of Zurich. After his retirement, he worked at the biomedical research center Scripps Research in Florida. He has received 8 honorary doctorates and 26 scientific prizes, including the Ruzicka Prize for Chemistry, the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine and the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize.