The Latest: Discovery on golf course inspired Nobel winner

October 5, 2015 GMT

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Latest developments in the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Medicine (all times local):


2:45 p.m.

Nobel Prize-winner Satoshi Omura has revealed that the key to developing ivermectin was found on a golf course.

Omura and William Campbell on Monday were announced as winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine for developing the drug that has helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms.

Omura said the key substance was taken from a microbe contained in the soil sample at a golf course near Tokyo. He says he always carries a plastic bag in his wallet so he can collect soil sample any time.

Asked if he likes to play golf, he grinned, and said “yes.”



2:25 p.m.

The jury selecting the winners for the Nobel Prize in medicine says the 2015 prize doesn’t reward traditional medicine, but individuals inspired by such practices.

Prize committee chairwoman Juleen Zierath says she thinks traditional medicine can inspire scientists to develop new drugs.

Committee member Jan Anderson adds that the 2015 award is by no means the first prize given to laureates inspired by traditional medicine.

Anderson says the laureates were awarded for “the identification of the specific chemical compound within the traditional — that’s the uniqueness.”


2:00 p.m.

A Nobel committee member says the honor for Tu Youyou, the first Chinese national to win a Nobel Prize in medicine, is the fruit of fundamental changes in the way her country does science.

Committee member Jan Andersson says the award to Tu for discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria comes after the Chinese have “invested a lot in science” and “completely changed the way they structure how they do science.”

He says that “now they become awarded for it and belong to the scientific community to a higher extent than they have done in the last 50 years.”


1:45 p.m.

Disease experts say the drugs developed by Monday’s Nobel laureates have had a major impact.

Ivermectin, developed from avermectin, “has spared millions of people from river blindness, which typically strikes people in their prime,” said Colin Sutherland, reader in parasitology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

And “having artemisinin has been huge for malaria ... The whole world has changed its malaria policies to use artemisinin.”

Stephen Ward, deputy director of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, called the new laureates “very worthy.”

He also said that until artemisinin and combination therapies were available, “we faced an absolute catastrophe. The only drugs we had against malaria were failing rapidly.”



12:55 p.m.

A member of the Nobel Prize committee says the work of the 2015 medicine laureates could help eliminate diseases affecting 3.4 billion people.

Jan Andersson says that as a result of the laureates’ discoveries, the World Health Organization now has a plan aimed at eradicating river blindness in the 31 countries where the disease is endemic by 2025. He says the WHO also hopes to eradicate elephantiasis in 61 of the 81 countries affected by 2020.

He says that partly as a result of Tu Youyou’s discovery, the mortality from malaria has been reduced by 50 percent in the last 10 years, and the number of infections has been cut by 40 percent. Andersson says the WHO now hopes to eliminate malaria in 35 countries by 2035.


12:45 p.m.

Satoshi Omura says he wonders whether he deserved to share in the Noble Prize in Medicine.

Omura and William Campbell were cited for discovering a drug that has helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms.

In a televised interview on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK, Omura commented: “I have learned so much from microorganisms and I have depended on them, so I would much rather give the prize to microorganisms.”

He added: “This is kind of a low-profile research area, but microorganisms are extremely important for humans. They can be our partners. I hope the area gets more attention because of the prize so that it can further contribute to human beings.”


12:05 p.m.

Nobel Prize committee member Hans Forssberg says the discoveries of the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine winners have fundamentally changed the treatments of hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable people in the world.

Forsberg says Tu Youyou’s discovery has “markedly reduced the death toll during the last decade” from malaria, while discoveries by William Campbell and Satoshi Omura have contributed to dramatically reducing the number of individuals affected each year from “the stigmatizing and disabling symptoms” of river blindness and elphentiasis.

Forssberg says the discoveries represent a paradigm shift in medicine that also has a positive effect on society as a whole.

He says: “By allowing children to go to school and adults to go to work the treatment helps them to avoid poverty and contributes to an economic boost in society.