Chinese scientist among Nobel medicine winners
China has its first Nobel laureate in medicine.
Tu Youyou is one of three scientists who won a the Nobel Prize for Medicine on Monday. US citizen William Campbell and Japan’s Satoshi Omura won half of the prize for discovering avermectin, a derivative of which has been used to treat hundreds of millions of people with river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis.
Tu was awarded half the prize for discovering artemisinin, a drug that has slashed malaria deaths and has become the mainstay of fighting the mosquito-borne disease.
She used a traditional Chinese herbal medicine in her hunt for a better malaria treatment.
She found that an extract from the plant Artemisia annua was sometimes effective but the results were inconsistent, so she went back to ancient literature, including a recipe from 350 AD, in the search for clues. This eventually led to the isolation of artemisinin, a new class of antimalaria drug, which was available in China before it reached the West.