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Japan’s professor wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

Posted by pakin On October - 6 - 2015

Satoshi Omura, a distinguished professor emeritus of Kitasato University, has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with William Campbell for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute announced Monday.

According to the institute, Omura and Campbell — a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in the United States — discovered a new drug called Avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, and been effective against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases.

Omura and Campbell won the prize along with Youyou Tu of China, who was honored for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria.

The institute praised the winning discoveries as having “provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”

Omura, 80, is the 23rd Nobel recipient for Japan, and follows last year’s win by three scientists — Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura — in Physics. He is also the first Japanese to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine since Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka in 2012.

The prize money of 8 million Swedish kronor (US$959,000) will be divided among the recipients, with one-fourth going to Omura. The awards ceremony will be held in Stockholm on December 10.

During his career, which has spanned half a century, Omura discovered more than 450 unique bioactive compounds and clarified their structures.

Born in Nirasaki, Yamanashi Prefecture, in 1935, Omura graduated from Yamanashi University with a bachelor of science degree in 1958. He received a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Science at Tokyo University of Science in 1963.

Omura earned a doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences in 1968 from the University of Tokyo, and a doctoral degree in chemistry from Tokyo University of Science in 1970.

Omura discovered antibiotics derived from microorganisms in soil and contributed to the development of medicine in a wide variety of fields. He has been especially praised for saving many people from epidemics of parasitic diseases in Africa and other tropical areas.

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