Tu Youyou, Discoverer Of Malarial Drug, Receives Medical Prize

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/12/tu-youyou-malaria-medical-prize_n_958586.html

By MALCOLM RITTER  09/12/11 08:07 AM ET

W YORK — A scientist who discovered a powerful malaria drug and two others who illuminated how proteins fold within cells have won prestigious medical awards.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the $250,000 prizes Monday and will present them Sept. 23 in New York.

Tu Youyou, 81, of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing, won the clinical research award for discovering the malaria drug artemisinin (ar-tuh-MIHS’-ihn-ihn), which the foundation said has saved millions of lives.

In the late 1960s, as part of a Chinese government project, Tu began combing ancient texts and folk remedies to find a treatment for malaria. She collected 2,000 potential recipes, from which her team made 380 extracts. One extract, from sweet wormwood, showed promise in mouse studies. Following a clue from an ancient document, Tu redesigned the extraction process to make the extract more potent. In the early 1970s, she and her colleagues isolated the active ingredient, artemisinin. 

The Lasker foundation was established in 1942. Albert Lasker was an advertising executive who died in 1952. His wife Mary was a longtime champion of medical research before her death in 1994

mebecarl

Why do some Foundation­s wait until a person (doctor or scientist) is near the age of death before honoring him or her for something they discoved in the 1970’s, and has saved millions of lives?? I hope they take immediate vacations before they pass on.

The Lasker Foundation – 2011 Awards

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2011_c_description.htm


The first known medical description of Qinghao lies in a 2000-year-old document called “52 Prescriptions” (168 BCE) that had been unearthed from a Mawangdui Han Dynasty tomb. It details the herb’s use for soothing hemorrhoids. Later texts also mention the plant’s curative powers. Tu discovered a passage in the Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies (340 CE) by Ge Hong that referenced Qinghao’s malaria-healing capacity. It said “Take a handful of Qinghao, soak in two liters of water, strain the liquid, and drink.” She realized that the standard procedure of boiling and high-temperature extraction could destroy the active ingredient. 

With this idea in mind, Tu redesigned the extraction process, performing it at low temperatures with ether as the solvent. She also removed a harmful acidic portion of the extract that did not contribute to antimalarial activity, tracked the material to the leaves rather than other parts of the plant, and figured out when to harvest the herb to maximize yields. These innovations boosted potency and slashed toxicity. At a March 1972 meeting of the Project 523 group’s key participants, she reported that the neutral plant extract —number 191—obliterated Plasmodia in the blood of mice and monkeys.

From branch to bedside 

Later that year, Tu and her team tested the substance on 21 people with malaria in the Hainan Province, an island off the southern coast of China. About half the patients were infected with Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of the microbial miscreants, and about half were infected with Plasmodium vivax, the most common cause of a disease variant that is characterized by recurring fevers. In both groups, fever disappeared rapidly, as did blood-borne parasites. …..

In 2001, the WHO signed an agreement with Novartis, the manufacturer of one of these drug combinations, Coartem®; it consists of artemether and lumefantrine, another antimalarial agent, which was originally synthesized by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing. The company is supplying the drug at no profit to public health systems of countries where the disease is endemic. To date, Novartis has provided more than 400 million Coartem® treatments. 

Tu pioneered a new approach to malaria treatment that has benefited hundreds of millions of people and promises to benefit many times more. By applying modern techniques and rigor to a heritage provided by 5000 years of Chinese traditional practitioners, she has delivered its riches into the 21st century. 

By Evelyn Strauss 

 

The Lasker Foundation – 2011 Awards

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2011_c_presentation.htm

Not often in the history of clinical medicine can we celebrate a discovery that has eased the pain and distress of hundreds of millions of people and saved the lives of countless numbers of people, particularly children, in over 100 countries. The discovery, chemical identification, and validation of artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malarial drug, is largely due to the scientific insight, vision and dogged determination of Professor Tu Youyou and her team at the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica in Beijing. The statistics on malarial infections are horrendous. Professor Tu’s work has provided the world with arguably the most important pharmaceutical intervention in the last half century. 

The story behind Professor Tu’s work that led to the discovery of artemisinin, could easily be the stuff of a novel set during Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. In the late 1960s, a secret military project in China, Project 523 (for May 23), was established by Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou to develop new anti- malarial therapies for the mosquito-borne infection that was devastating civilian and military populations. At that time, most malarial infections had become resistant to chloroquine, the most commonly used drug. In the Vietnam War, the number of soldiers who died of drug-resistant malaria was much higher than that from casualties in both combating sides. The mandate of Project 523 was to screen traditional Chinese herbal medicines with a goal of compound identification, chemical validation, and demonstration of effectiveness in malaria patients. Project 523 was a competitive effort launched with approximately 50 institutes across China involved in the endeavor….. 

To this day, the commercial source of artemisinin is still extracts from the sweet wormwood tree, first referred to in 340 AD and first made into a powerful, rapidly-acting, non-toxic anti-malarial drug by Professor Tu Youyou — a remarkable drug that is now saving lives throughout the world. Artemisinin was found to clear malarial parasites from our bodies faster than any other drug in the history of this disease. To quote Barry Bloom, the Chair of the Technical Expert group on Affordable Medicines of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, artemisinin is “the only drug ever to take moribund individuals with cerebral malaria and bring them back to life.” 

Professor Tu is to be celebrated for her extraordinary recognition of the potential of the Chinese herbal medicine, artemisinin for the treatment of malaria, her elegant isolation and characterization of this complex molecule, and for shepherding this drug into a highly effective treatment that is in use throughout the world. 

 

The Lasker Foundation – Awards

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/photos.htm

 

The Lasker Foundation – 2011 Awards

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2011_c_jury.htm

The Lasker Foundation – 2011 Awards

http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2011_c_accept_youyou.htm

Acceptance remarks by Tu Youyou

Dear respected Chairman, President and Jury Members of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, Dear respected Nobel Laureates and my fellow Lasker Laureates, Dear respected President of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I am extremely honored to be selected as a winner of this year’s Lasker~DeBakery Clinical Medical Research Award — one of the most esteemed awards in the biomedical sciences. I express my wholehearted thanks to the jury members for the recognition of my contributions to the discovery of Qinghaosu (artemisinin) for malaria treatment. 

In my childhood, I witnessed occasions when patients were rescued by folk Chinese medicine recipes. However, neither did I dream then of such a close linkage of my whole life to researching those miraculous herbs nor could I imagine then that today I would experience such an overwhelming moment when my research has been highly praised by the international scientific community. I started research on herbal medicines in 1955. My curiosity about herbs turned into a strong motivation after college training, and more importantly through years of invaluable experience in the Institute of Materia Medica, in particular during two and half years full time training on traditional Chinese medicine arranged by the institute. Equipped with a sound knowledge in both traditional Chinese medicine and modern pharmaceutical sciences, my team inherited and developed the essence of traditional Chinese medicine using modern science and technology and eventually, we successfully accomplished the discovery and development of Qinghaosu from Qinghao (Artemisia annua L). 

Whereas the finding of quinine was largely attributed to the historical use of Cinchona Ledgeriana in Peru, the discovery of Qinghaosu is a gift to mankind from traditional Chinese medicine. From the traditional Chinese medicinal literature I was inspired with new ideas at the most challenging moment during the research process. Traditional Chinese medicine has served people in China and other Asian countries for many centuries. Continuous exploration and development of traditional medicine will, without doubt, bring more medicines to the world. I advocate a global collaboration in the research of Chinese and other traditional medicines in order to maximize their benefits to the healthcare of the human beings. 

The discovery of Qinghaosu is a small step in the human endeavor towards conquering diseases. I feel greatly encouraged and rewarded by WHO’s recommendation on the use of Qinghaosu based Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) as the frontline remedy against malaria. For this, I would also like to express my great appreciation and thanks to my Chinese colleagues who made significant contributions to the discovery and clinical application of Qinghaosu. 

 http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110917/GJLIFESTYLES/110919848/-1/FOSLIFESTYLES

 

Chinese Scientist Presented “America’s Nobel”

http://english.cri.cn/6909/2011/09/24/2941s659796.htm

A Chinese scientist was presented a prestigious U.S. award on Friday for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug therapy for malaria that has saved millions of lives across the globe, especially in the developing world.

Pharmacologist Tu Youyou, 81, became the first scientist on the Chinese mainland to win Lasker Award, known as “America’s Nobels” for their knack of gaining future recognition by the Nobel committee.

 Chinese scientist presented “America’s Nobel”_XINHUANET

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/photo/2011-09/24/c_131157451.htm

7 pictures

New York, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) — A Chinese scientist was presented a prestigious U.S. award on Friday for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug therapy for malaria that has saved millions of lives across the globe, especially in the developing world.

Pharmacologist Tu Youyou, 81, became the first scientist on the Chinese mainland to win Lasker Award, known as “America’s Nobels” for their knack of gaining future recognition by the Nobel committee.

Tu, a scientist at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing, pioneered a new approach to malaria treatment that has benefited hundreds of millions of people and promises to benefit many times more. By applying modern techniques and rigor to a heritage provided by 5000 years of Chinese traditional practitioners, she has delivered its riches into the 21st century.

“Not often in the history of clinical medicine can we celebrate a discovery that has eased the pain and distress of hundreds of millions of people and saved the lives of countless numbers of people, particularly children, in over 100 countries,” Lucy Shapiro, a member of the award jury and professor of Stanford University, said while describing Tu’ s discovery.

Shapiro said the discovery, chemical identification, and validation of artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malarial drug, is largely due to the “scientific insight, vision and dogged determination” of Professor Tu and her team. She thought Professor Tu’s work has provided the world with arguably the most important pharmaceutical intervention in the last half century.

“The discovery of artemisinin is a gift to mankind from traditional Chinese medicine,” Tu said while receiving the award. “Continuous exploration and development of traditional medicine will, without doubt, bring more medicines to the world.”

She advocated a global collaboration in the research of Chinese and other traditional medicines in order to maximize their benefits to the healthcare of the human beings.

An artemisinin-based drug combination is now the standard regimen for malaria, and the World Health Organization lists artemisinin and related agents in its catalog of “Essential Medicines.”

“Professor Tu’s achievement was one of the most important achievements in infectious diseases of all areas,” Anthony Fauci, director of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Xinhua. “It is a good example that Chinese traditional medicine sometimes leads to global usable compound like artemisinin.”

The Lasker Awards are among the most respected science prizes in the world. Since 1945, the Awards Program has recognized the contributions of scientists, physicians, and public servants who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of human disease.

In the last two decades, 28 Lasker laureates have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize, and 80 since 1945.

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