Congratulations to the new Nobel Laureates in Medicine— Youyou Tu, William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura!
This year's prize acknowledges discoveries toward medicines against parasites causing diseases affecting millions of people around the world. Interestingly, one of these awards has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine.
Y ouyou Tu, who is affiliated with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (previously known as the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine) in Beijing, looked through the ancient herbal medicine literature for a cure for malaria. In the process, she tested many plants, eventually homing in on one called Artemisia annua or sweet wormword. This herb has been used for hundreds of years to bring down fever.
Tu developed a purification procedure, which resulted in the active agent and the drug Artemisinin, which is remarkably effective against malaria. By some estimates, Artemisinin saves 100,000 lives every year in Africa alone.