Three scientists who discovered "therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases" have won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, the Nobel committee announced on Monday.
The Nobel committee awarded the prize to William C. Campbell, a researcher at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and Satoshi Omura, a professor emeritus at Kitasato University in Tokyo, for their work developing the drug Avermectin—the derivative of which, Ivermectin, has dramatically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.
Youyou Tu, a researcher at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, shared the prize with Campbell and Omura for her work developing the drug Artemisinin, which has been found to help reduce the mortality of malaria by more than 20%–including by more than 30% among children—and is credited with saving more than 100,000 lives annually in Africa alone.
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In a statement, the committee said, "These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually." Parasitic worm diseases, such as river blindness and malaria, sicken a third of the world's population. "The consequences [of the discoveries] in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable," the committee added.
One winner was quick to thank external factors for his remarkable discoveries. Omura told a Japanese television broadcaster that he was not sure if he deserved the price, adding, "I have learned so much from microorganisms and I have depended on them, so I would much rather give the prize to microorganisms."
Prizes in physics
The committee awarded the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday to Takaaki Kajita of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research and in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald of Queen's University in Canada for demonstrating that neutrinos must have mass.
Research teams led by Kajita and McDonald both took measurements of neutrinos that led to a "ground-breaking discovery" that the subatomic particles have mass—a realization that contradicted the Standard Model of particle physics, Stefan Soldner-Rembold, particle physicist at the University of Manchester, told the BBC.
"The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe," the committee said in a statement.
Receiving the award was "a very daunting experience," said McDonald. "Fortunately, I have many colleagues as well, who share this prize with me" (Altman, New York Times, 10/5; Bernstein, Washington Post, 10/5; Ritter/Rising, AP/ABC News, 10/5; Webb, BBC News, 10/6; Molin, Wall Street Journal, 10/6).
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