Anti-parasitic diseases drug and anti-malaria drug discoveries brought The Nobel Prize for medicine to three scientists from Ireland, Japan and China
The Nobel Prize for medicine was the first to be announced, as Irish scientist William Campbell (age 85), Satoshi Omura (age 80) of Japan and Tu Youyou (age 84) from China were awarded the prestigious award on Monday at Stockholm.
W. Campbell and S. Omura were awarded for discovering avermectin, a substance that helps lowering river blindness and lymphatic filariasis incidence, two parasitic diseases millions of people in Africa and Asia suffer from.
According to the World Health Organization data, about 120 million people are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a serious disease that causes elephantiasis, leaving people disfigured and incapacitated.
On the other hand, river blindness affects the eyes and the skin, finally leading to permanent blindness.
Y. Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that was shown to considerably reduce mortality in malaria cases. Tu was also the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate.
“The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable”, the Stockholm Nobel Prize committee declared.
Besides diplomas and gold medals, the three octogenarian scientists will also share the $960,000 prize money.
“I wonder if I deserve the prize. I have learned so much from microorganisms and I have depended on them, so I would much rather give the prize to microorganisms,” S. Omura declared for the Japanese broadcaster NHK.
As China has never won a science Nobel prize before, the award was welcomed with great joy by Chinese researchers: “This is indeed a glorious moment. This also is an acknowledgement to the traditional Chinese medicine, for the work began with herbal medicine”, Li Chenjian from Peking University states.