Irish Scientist Wins Nobel Prize

Professor William Campbell (center), former Director of Parasitology at Merck who was centrally involved in developing Ivermectin, the cure against river blindness, was conferred with a Doctor in Science (Sc.D) is pictured with the Chancellor of the University, Mary Robinson and TCD Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo: Justin Mac Innes / Mac Innes Photography)

By R. Bryan Willits, Editorial Assistant
December / January 2016

Irish scientist William C. Campbell, a researcher at Drew University in New Jersey, has been awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Satoshi Ōmura and Tu Youyou. Campbell, from Donegal, is the second ever Irish-born scientist to win the Nobel Prize (after Ernest Walton in 1951). The 2015 prize winners all made discoveries that are being used to fight parasitic diseases, especially in the developing world.

Campbell’s and Ōmura’s discoveries have led to the development of drugs that are highly effective in treating diseases like river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, which are caused by parasitic worms. A drug using ivermectin was developed by Campbell while working at Merck, a pharmaceutical company.

Stressing the importance of looking to nature for cures to disease, Campbell told Adam Smith, the Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media, “there is a certain amount of hubris in humans thinking that they can create molecules as well as nature can create molecules in terms of the diversity of molecules, because nature consistently produces molecules that have not been thought of by humans.” ♦

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