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Nobel Prize for Noble Causes

Tropical diseases have taken the spotlight for this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Half of the prize went to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura “for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites”. The second half went to Youyou Tu “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria”. All three winners are in their eighties, proving that you’re never too old to have your scientific work rewarded.

Campbell and Ōmura discovered avermectin, which has been described as having “extraordinary efficacy” against parasitic diseases. The avermectin drug family treat parasitic worms and as well as being used extensively in veterinary medicines, they have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness (onchocerciasis) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), which are both now on the verge of eradication. Avermectin has also shown efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. Its derivative, ivermectin, is used in all parts of the world that are plagued by parasitic diseases – it has limited side effects and is freely available across the globe.

The announcement of Tu as the recipient of the second half of the prize has caused a bit of a stir. Tu is credited with the discovery of artemisinin, which is highly effective against the malaria parasite, and  she is the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize. Her scientific discovery was inspired by traditional Chinese medicine and her research was done exclusively in China. In the 1960s, she conducted a large-scale screen of herbal remedies in malaria-infected animals. An interesting candidate was sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) but the results were inconsistent so Tu turned to ancient Chinese literature on herbal remedies – and eventually discovered how to successfully extract the artemisinin component.

If your own scientific work has had a humanitarian impact, then why not enter the Humanity in Science Award at:

It’s not quite a Nobel Prize, but the winner will receive $25,000.

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About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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