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.
In early 1969, Tu was appointed head of a government project that aimed to eradicate malaria, and it was then she began applying modern techniques with Chinese traditional medicine to find drug therapy for malaria.
After detecting 380 extracts made from 2,000 candidate recipes, Tu and her colleagues obtained a pure substance called "Qinghaosu," which became known as artemisinin in 1972.
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.