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TIME 2020 TOP 100: Chinese scientist Tu Youyou

Beijing, China | PD CHINA |  Tu Youyou, an outstanding Chinese scientist who has made great strides with the development of a key anti-malarial drug artemisinin, was in 2020 elected as one of the 100 Women of the Year by Time magazine.

Having devoted more than 40 years of her life to medical research, Tu Youyou discovered an entirely new anti-malarial treatment, artemisinin (also known as qinghaosu in Chinese), which has significantly reduced the malaria-related mortality rate in the world.

After graduating from pharmacognosy in Peking University, Tu was elected chair of a government project aimed at eradicating malaria and started devoting herself to treating malaria with traditional Chinese medicine.

As ancient Chinese medical manuscripts recorded the method of applying sweet wormwood to cure the disease, the team hence put the herb to tests, experimenting with 380 extracts in 2,000 candidate recipes. In 1972, the researchers finally succeeded in obtaining the chemical substance that attacked malaria-causing parasites in the blood which was later recognized as artemisinin.

The discovery of artemisinin led to development of Artemisinin Combination Treatment (ACT) that has saved the millions of lives across the globe, especially halving the mortality rate of malaria Africa, a malaria-plagued continent.

The drug become the first Chinese-made artemisinin-based antimalarial drug being included on WHO’s Essential Medicines List.

In 2015, at the age of 85, Tu won the 2015 Nobel Prize for notable contribution in the anti-malarial research, becoming the China’s first Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine. She also won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medicine Research Award, a top prize in medical science in 2011.

In 2020, Tu Youyou was elected as one of the 100 Women of the Year by Time magazine which honored the most influential women of the past century.

Holding scientific ideals in difficult times and forging ahead with unswerving resolution, Tu Youyou brought the world with new anti-malarial treatment based on traditional Chinese wisdom, boosting researchers’ confidence in relevant medical research to end the endemic entirely worldwide.



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