October 5, 2015, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine of 2015 was announced and shared by three scientists. William C. Campbell from United States and Satoshi Omura from Japan shared half of the prize, and the other half was granted to a Chinese female scientist, Youyou Tu. The contributions of the three people are about anti-parasitic drugs.
William C. Campbell co-invented avermectin with Satoshi Omura, laid foundation for the eradication of river blindness. Youyou Tu worked on artemisinin, and now artemisinin has been a standard ingredient of the drug against malaria, but the more significant point of the discovery is that it helps to reduce the death rate caused from the disease to a large scale.
The two drugs have made great contribution on the way of treating parasitic diseases, and preventing millions of people from suffering even dying of the related illness. About one third people in the world benefited from their effort, for which the value of the discoveries are immeasurable.
Satoshi Omura chose 50 cultures of Streptomyces from thousands of that, and then Dr. Campbell focused one that could produce a substance to kill parasites in animals with a great efficiency and proved it. In further study, Ivermectin was found effective for the killing of human parasites.
Youyou Tu, with the spirit of persistence, successfully extracted an agent against malaria from Artemisia annua. Chinese traditional medicine gained its reputation for a long history, but few scientists were willing to work on the study of the mechanism and make a wider and more accurate application. Youyou Tu is one of these few scientists and she has been doing that for decades. During the study, she took a great amount of ancient material for references and identified the substance. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, Dr. Tu was the first one to discovery that Artemisinin is effective for killing malaria parasite.
The three scientists who were awarded for the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine were all born in the 30’s of last century. They made the breakthrough both in their own scientific career and on the way of drug development for the whole humankind partly because of the spirit of persistence, a symbol of the scientists in that generation.