5th October 2015 – William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Youyou Tu were honoured this week by the Nobel Committee for finding natural treatments of diseases caused by parasites.
Dr. Campbell and Dr. Omura were awarded for their discovery of Avermectin, a medicine against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, and Dr. Tu was honoured for discovering Artemisinin, a drug that kills the Malaria parasite at an early stage of its development.
In 1969, as part of a secret research unit entitled “523”, Tu was given the task of finding a drug that would cure malaria, a disease which was killing Chinese troops at the height of the Vietnam War.
Originally trained in traditional Chinese medicine, Tu researched the sweet wormwood plant, Artemisia annua, and discovered a chemical in the extract of the plant, now known as Artemisinin, which killed malaria parasites in the blood. This revolutionary discovery occurred when traditional treatments with chloroquine or quinine were becoming less effective.
“Tu was the first to show that this component, later called Artemisinin, was highly effective against the malaria parasite, both in infected animals and humans” stated the Nobel Committee. This discovery by Dr. Tu revolutionized malaria treatments, such as through artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) which are used to treat uncomplicated malaria cases today.
Dr. Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of RBM, praised this decision by the Nobel Assembly, as the use of Artemisinin Combination Therapies has cut mortality rates, saved millions of lives, and significantly reduced global suffering.
“ Dr. Tu showed us how nature offers a remedy to debilitating parasitic infections and can be used for humanity’s benefit, ” said Dr Nafo -Traoré. RBM Partnership sends its deepest appreciation and congratulations to Dr. Tu for this great achievement and contribution to mankind.