Scientist who discovered malaria treatment wins Nobel Prize

The discovery of a potent antimalarial treatment by Youyou Tu of China, awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, is “one of the greatest examples of the century” of the translation of scientific discovery, according to malaria expert Dyann Wirth of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“This is classic basic research that has resulted in a drug that saves lives,” said Wirth, chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard Chan School and director of the Harvard Malaria Initiative, in an October 5, 2015 Los Angeles Times article.

Tu was part of a Chinese government team charged in the 1960s with finding a new malaria-fighting drug as the disease became resistant to then-commonly used medications. The scientists discovered arteminisin, which has been credited with cutting worldwide malaria deaths in half.

Quoted on NPR, Wirth said that Tu and her colleagues “went back to the Chinese literature of medicinal chemistry—that is chemistry derived from plant, herbal treatments—identified hundreds of compounds that showed relief of fever and then began systematically testing these plant extracts.”

Also, Wirth told the Wall Street Journal that “the vision to follow the traditional medicine but use modern approaches” was what marked Tu’s scientific accomplishment.

Read the Los Angeles Times article: Nobel Prize in medicine goes to 3 scientists for work on parasite-fighting therapies

Read the NPR article: 3 Scientists Awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology Or Medicine

Read the Wall Street Journal article: Nobel in Medicine Awarded to Three for Advances Against Tropical Diseases