2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of novel therapies against malaria and helminth infections

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinksa Institutet has today decided to award the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with one half jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura and the other half to Youyou Tu. Campbell and Satoshi are awarded for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria.

The laureates William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura discovered a new drug, Avermectin. Marketed under the name Ivermectin, the drug has radically lowered the incidence of parasitic diseases such as river blindness or lymphatic filariasis. “Ivermectin is a real wonder drug”, says Jürg Utzinger, director of Swiss TPH. “It is active against many parasitic diseases in humans and animals and provided free of charge until these diseases are eliminated.”

Effective combination therapy against malaria
The Chinese scientist Youyou Tu is awarded for her discovery of Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria. Today, Artemisinin is a central component in all the combination therapies fighting malaria parasites. “The prize is an important recognition for the fight against poverty-related and neglected diseases”, says Marcel Tanner from Swiss TPH.

Elimination of malaria and other poverty-related diseases possible
Thanks to Ivermectin and Artemisinin, some of the world regions have already started to think of eliminating malaria, river blindness of lymphatic fliariasis. “Youyou Tu for sure greatly deserves this prize”, Tanner says. But there are others too that could have been thought of as awardees. For instance Li Guoquiao, who conducted the relevant trials, or Yinquing Zhou, who pushed the combination therapies. “Artemisinin has made the world a better place”, Tanner says.

Acknowledgement of the work of Swiss TPH
Swiss TPH too has an important stake in this success. The institute has led the first clinical trials with artemisinin-based combination therapies with children in Africa. Its researchers were key in developing public private partnerships such as Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) or the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and they continuously develop new strategies to bring new drugs to the people who need them most. Moreover, Swiss TPH is “WHO Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology and Control of Helminth Infections.“



Prof. Jürg Utzinger, juerg.utzingeranti spam bot@unibasanti spam bot.ch

Prof. Marcel Tanner, marcel.tanneranti spam bot@unibasanti spam bot.ch