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Chinese Premier congratulates Tu for winning Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize copy

Beijing : Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has congratulated herbal expert Youyou Tu on winning the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, the first Chinese woman to win any Nobel prize in science.

“Tu’s winning the prize signifies China’s prosperity and progress in scientific and technological field, marks a great contribution of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to the cause of human health, and showcases China’s growing strengths and rising international standing,” Li said in a congratulatory letter, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Tu, born in 1930, shared the prize with Irish-born William Campbell and Japan’s Satoshi Omura for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria.

The pharmacologist discovered Artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria.

Meanwhile, joyous over her long pending recognition, Tu said the discovery of the drug was a “gift” to the world from the traditional Chinese medicine and is a great discovery to cure Malaria and other infectious diseases.

“Artemisinin is a gift for the world people from the traditional Chinese medicine. It is of great significance for curing malaria and other infectious diseases and for protecting the health of the world people,” she said.

“The discovery of Artemisinin is a successful example of collective research on traditional Chinese medicine.

“The prize winning is an honour for China’s science cause and traditional Chinese medicine in their course of reaching out to the world,” she added.

“Tu is neither a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences nor Chinese Academy of Engineering. She hasn’t received any notable domestic award.

“Receiving the Nobel Prize shows the difference in the way China and the rest of the world recognises accomplishment- something which we should reflect on,” state-run Global Times said in its editorial.

Tu throws light for the first time on her major medical breakthrough which remained untold fearing persecution on intellectuals during late leader Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in 1960s.

“Being a scientist in the 1960s and 70s was difficult.” According to Mao’s theory, scientists were one of the nine black categories at the time.

“Controversies soon raised, some questioned her eligibility due to the lack of a doctor’s degree and sufficient experience overseas, while others pointed that she was not a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS),” the People’s Daily said.

Tu was inspired from the extraction method used in ancient Chinese medicine, and made the first discovery in malaria-parasite inhibiting substance the Artemisia annual efficient ingredient.

“From that point on, her achievements snowballs the million-lives-saving significance of anti-malarial drug artemisinin, its deserved Lasker Award in 2011, as well as the just announced Nobel Prize” it said.

During the Cultural Revolution knowledge (1966-70) was scorned and intellectuals publicly humiliated, Tu and her fellow scientists chose to remain silent about their success in transforming an ancient healing method into a modern medicine.

Tu’s journey of malaria studies began as early as May, 1969 during China’s Cultural Revolution.

After collecting over 2000 candidate herbal recipes ranging from plants, animals, and minerals, and reviewing ancient texts, Tu and her team discovered Artemisia annua extract as a suppressant in related virus growth in animals.

When controversy broke out that the recognition for discovery of the anti-malarial drug should go to the entire team of scientists not Tu along, Professor Li Guoqiao, from the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine who worked with her during the days of Cultural Revolution said after she won the Lasker Award in New York in 2011 that “Tu was the first to open a crack and the others joined forces to push open the door.”

“The award is recognition of the research on artemisinin in China. We feel proud as well,” he told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

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