Half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Youyou Tu of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing for her work in counteracting malaria. William C. Campbell, professor emeritus at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and Satoshi Ōmura, professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Japan, will split the other half for work that has led to treatments against roundworm parasites.
Tu, inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, identified a compound in sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) that combats the parasite that causes malaria. Her insights led to the drug artemisinin, which has markedly reduced the death toll of malaria.
Ōmura and Campbell’s investigation of compounds made by soil bacteria led to the drug avermectin, which combats parasites that cause elephantiasis and river blindness.
Together, these drugs affect the lives of 3.4 billion people.