China’s First Nobel Laureate in SciencePosted: October 7, 2015
Ms. Tu won for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced mortality rates among malaria patients.
Tu Youyou, awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, is the first citizen of the People’s Republic of China to win a Nobel for a scientific discipline and the first female Chinese citizen to win any Nobel. Imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo was the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel while in China in 2010 when he was awarded the peace prize. Chinese novelist Mo Yan won the literature prize in 2012.
Physicists Li Zhengdao and Yang Zhenning, who left China prior to the Communist Party takeover in 1949, shared the 1957 physics prize while working in the U.S. Both men later became U.S. citizens.
Ms. Tu won for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced mortality rates among malaria patients, according to the prize announcement. The 84-year-old retired professor at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences was awarded the prestigious Lasker Medical Research Award in 2011 for the same feat.
The discovery of the drug came in the early 1970s as the result of a program established by Mao Zedong to find a cure for malaria that would help the North Vietnamese in their fight with South Vietnam and the U.S., according to Chinese state media. Ms. Tu led a team that scoured traditional Chinese medicinal texts for remedies that might fight the parasite. They eventually identified artemisinin, a compound contained in a plant known as sweet wormwood that proved unusually effective in fighting the disease.
“It is one of the few very truly innovative drugs to come out of China,” said Ray Yip, former China program director for both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Gates Foundation. “The introduction of artemisinin was a major force in containing the scourge of malaria.”
Ms. Tu couldn’t be reached for comment. An account on social-media platform Weibo that used her name but which couldn’t be verified to be managed by her, posted the message: “Thank you Sweden’s Karolinska Institute! Thank you Nobel Prize!” The Karolinska Institute is a medical university in Stockholm that awards Nobel Prizes for medicine and physiology.
Though People’s Daily and other state media carried the news, the award is likely to touch off mixed feelings in Beijing. China has long coveted the prestige of a Nobel victory in the sciences, and the news is likely to…(read more)
Source: China Real Time Report – WSJ
Clarification: Tu Youyou is the first citizen of the People’s Republic of China to win a Nobel for a scientific discipline and the first female Chinese citizen to win any Nobel. An earlier version of this post said Ms. Tu is the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel for a scientific discipline.
Correction: A thank-you message purportedly posted by Ms. Tu was from a Weibo social-media account that used her name, but which hasn’t been confirmed to be hers. An earlier version of the article incorrectly said that the comment was posted on her verified Weibo account.