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Global award praises lifetime achievement of pharmacist

(Global Times)

14:17, September 21, 2011

A Chinese pharmacist has won a top clinical prize for her contribution to the development of a form of anti-malaria medication.

It is the most prestigious global medical award won by a Chinese national, winning her praise from across the country.

The 81-year-old pharmacist, Tu Youyou, won the 2011 Lasker Medical Research Award on September 12 for successfully extracting artemisinin from Artemisia apiacea.

The extraction is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine often used to cure the infectious disease, malaria.

"The milestone extraction of arteminsinin is playing an increasingly important role in treating malaria as most malaria sufferers have a drug resistance to the original medicine," Zeng Guang, the chief scientist specializing in infectious diseases at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times.

"It is one of the few medical discoveries from China, which has already cured millions of lives in developing nations," Zeng said.

China launched the first grand anti-malaria medicine development project under then Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai on May 23, 1967.

The then 39-year-old Tu joined the project in 1969. Sifting through 380 extracts from more than 200 traditional Chinese medicines. Tu successfully extracted the artemisinin from Artemisia apiacea on October 4, 1971 after more than 190 failed experiments in her lab, the Nanjing newspaper reported. It said the innovative treatment can curb mouse and monkey malaria parasites.

Tu proposed extracting artemisinin through ether, an innovative experimental means. The move enlightened scientists and sent them on a path to more fruitful clinical research, according to the Nanjing Morning Post.

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