• Author: Kevin Engholdt

Nobel Prize in Medicine for Natural Products

On October 5, Drs. Youyou Tu, William Campbell, and Satoshi Ōmura jointly received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of the natural products avermectin and artemisinin!

Many drugs now on the market—such as digitalis, taxol, and vincristine—were originally derived from natural products.

Dr. Tu isolated artemisinin, an anti-malarial, from Artemisia annua, a plant that has been used in reducing fevers for centuries and is well documented in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formularies.

Drs. Campbell and Ōmura discovered the antibiotic avermectin when they screened Streptomycetes, microorganisms commonly found in soil, for natural products with anti-infectious activity.

William C. Campbell discovered that one of Ōmura's Streptomyces cultures was very effective in killing off parasites and the active compound, Avermectin, was purified. Avermectin was further modified to Ivermectin, which turned out to be highly effective in both animals and humans against a variety of parasites, including those that cause River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis.

These two structurally and pharmacologically unique compounds and their derivatives have revolutionized the treatment of parasitic diseases.

In the fight against the tropical infections that result in malaria, river blindness, and elephantiasis, these drugs have made a tremendous impact for the hundreds of millions who suffer these devastating diseases each year.

Infinitum Health, LLC congratulates Drs. Tu, Campbell, and Ōmura. This award not only recognizes their achievements but spotlights the rich resource of natural products that show promise in medicine and health.


1. "The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release". Media AB 2014. Web. 9 Oct 2015. <>


3. Burg et al., Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (1979) 15:361-367.

4. Egerton et al., Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (1979) 15:372-378.

5. Tu et al., Yao Xue Xue Bao (1981) 16, 366-370 (Chinese)

Prize Winner Backgrounds

William C. Campbell was born in 1930 in Ramelton, Ireland. After receiving a BA from Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland in 1952, he received a PhD from University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA in 1957. From 1957-1990 he was with the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research, from 1984-1990 as Senior Scientist and Director for Assay Research and Development. Campbell is currently a Research Fellow Emeritus at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA.

Satoshi Ōmura was born in 1935 in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan and is a Japanese Citizen. He received a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1968 from University of Tokyo, Japan and a PhD in Chemistry in 1970 from Tokyo University of Science. He was a researcher at the Kitasato Institute, Japan from 1965-1971 and Professor at Kitasato University, Japan from 1975-2007. From 2007, Satoshi Ōmura has been Professor Emeritus at Kitasato University.

Youyou Tu was born in 1930 in China and is a Chinese citizen. She graduated from the Pharmacy Department at Beijing Medical University in 1955. From 1965-1978 she was Assistant Professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, from 1979-1984 Associate Professor and from 1985 Professor at the same Institute. From 2000, Tu has been Chief Professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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