Posts Tagged ‘2015’

Nobel Prize in Medicine – 2015

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator



Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Drugs to Battle Malaria and Other Tropical Diseases

  • The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded today to three scientists from the U.S., Japan, and China, for discovering drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually.


The prize was awarded by the Nobel judges in Stockholm to William Campbell, Ph.D., who was born in Ireland and became a U.S. citizen in 1962, Satoshi Omura, Ph.D., of Japan, and Youyou Tu, the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate.

Dr. Campbell was associated with the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research from 1957 to 1990, and from 1984 to 1990 he was senior scientist and director for assay research and development.

Dr. Campbell, 85, is currently a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in Madison, NJ. Dr. Omura, 80, is a professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Japan and is from the central prefecture of Yamanashi. Ms. Tu, 84, is chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Nobel prize recipients Dr. Campbell and Dr. Omura were cited for discovering avermectin, derivatives of which have helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. These two diseases are caused by parasitic worms that affect millions of people in Africa and Asia.

Ms. Tu, who won the Lasker Award in 2011, was inspired by traditional Chinese remedies to find an alternative treatment for the ailing first line therapies for malaria, quinine and chloroquine. Ms. Tu poured through ancient texts searching for herbal malaria tinctures and came upon an example that utilized the Chinese sweet wormwood plant, Artemisia annua. From this plant she was able to extract the active compound for the antimalarial drug called artemisinin—currently the first line of defense given in malarial endemic regions that have seen resistance to other commonly used drugs, such as chloroquine. Artemisinin has greatly aided in reducing the mortality rates of malaria, a parasitic disease spread by mosquitos that affects close to 50% of the world’s population.

Efforts to eradicate the black fly date back decades. Merck developed Mectizan (ivermectin), a drug to treat river blindness, which kills the worm’s larvae and prevents the adult worms from reproducing. In 1987, Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, the chairman of Merck reportedly decided to make Mectizan available without charge because those who need it the most could not afford to pay for it.

The oral medication ivermectin paralyzes and sterilizes the parasitic worm that causes the illness.

The disease is spread by bites of the black fly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers. The worm can live in the human body for many years and it can grow to two feet in length, producing millions of larvae. Infected people suffer severe itching, skin nodules, and a variety of eye lesions, and in extreme cases blindness.

“The two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” said the Nobel Committee in a statement. “The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immensurable.”




Nobel Prize Predictions See Honors for Gene Editing Technology

By Julie Steenhuysen


Scientists selected as “Citation Laureates” rank in the top 1% of citations in their research areas.

“That is a signpost that the research wielded a lot of impact,” said Christopher King, an analyst with IP&S who helped select the winners.

Among the predicted winners for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry are Emmanuelle Charpentier of Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Germany and Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley. They were picked for their development of the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing.

The technique has taken biology by storm, igniting fierce patent battles between start-up companies and universities, and touching off ethical debates over its potential for editing human embryos.

Missing from the list is Feng Zhang, a researcher at the MIT-Harvard Broad Institute, who owns a broad U.S. patent on the technology, which is the subject of a legal battle. King said he was aware of Zhang’s claims on the technology, but noted that his scientific citations did not rise to the level of a nomination.

Other contenders for the chemistry prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 7 in Stockholm, include John Goodenough of the University of Texas Austin, and Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University in New York for research leading to the development of the lithium-ion battery.

Also in contention is Carolyn Bertozzi of Stanford University for her contributions to “bioorthogonal chemistry,” which refers to chemical reactions in live cells and organisms. Bertozzi’s lab is using the process to develop smart probes for medical imaging.

For the Nobel in medicine, to be announced Oct. 5, Thomson Reuters picked Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University and Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco. They showed that a mechanism known as the unfolded protein response acts as a “quality control system” inside cells, deciding whether damaged cells live or die.

Other contenders include Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis for showing a relationship between diet and metabolism and microbes that live in the human gut.

The group also picked a trio of researchers – Alexander Rudensky of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Shimon Sakaguchi of Osaka University, and Ethan Shevach of the National Institutes of Health – for discoveries relating to regulatory T cells and the function of Foxp3, a master regulator of these immune cells.

For the prizes in physics and economics, to be announced Oct. 6 and 12 respectively, Thomson Reuters predicts winners from scientists who helped pave the way for making X-ray lasers and work that helped explain the impact of policy decisions on labor markets and consumer demand.

Science enthusiasts can weigh in with their own predictions by taking part in Thomson Reuters’ “People’s Choice” prizes at StateOfInnovation.com.



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