Tu Youyou, the great 88 year-old woman who keeps working to benefit human beings

Helen Yang observed 3 blocks of the Journalism class during her time here as an exchange student from WLSA. She goes to school in Shanghai, China, and has never written for a publication like the Webb Canyon Chronicle before. Though her piece may be stylistically different from the other pieces on this website, we would like to honor her work and publish the article she worked so hard on.”

— Summer Chen

Tu Youyou, born in Zhejiang, 1930, now the chief scientist of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, the director of the Artemisinin development and research center, pharmaceutical chemist and educator. She is also been known because she discovered Artemisinin.

Artemisinin also is known as qinghaosu, and its semi-synthetic derivatives are a group of drugs used against Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative are now standard treatment worldwide for P. falciparum malaria and Lupus erythematosus. Artemisinin is isolated from the plant Artemisia annua, sweet wormwood, an herb employed in Chinese traditional medicine. It is discovered in 1972 by Tu Youyou. In September of 2011, because Artemisinin had saved millions of people’s lives especially for the people in developing countries such as South Asia, Africa, and South America, Tu Youyou received the 2011 Lasker Award in clinical medicine. In October of 2015, because of Artemisinin again, she received Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly and became the first Chinese person who received Nobel Prize in the field of science.

But Tu Youyou keeps working on Artemisinin and has recently discovered Dihydroartemisinin which has a better effect on Malaria [1] and Lupus erythematosus [2] than Artemisinin with her team. She also said that “‘Receiving award’ and ‘Being famous’ are the things in the past, what we need to do is to work harder.” “New Year is only the concept of time which remains me that there are a lot of things I need to work on.”

For the New Year’s wishes, she wishes to find more ‘secrets’ of Artemisinin and to turn the essays about Artemisinin into the real medicine; to build National Laboratory of Chinese Medicine and to accept talents in and out of China and to develop the traditional Chinese Medicine by using Modern Science and Technology and to innovative ways of inheriting and developing.  

‘Science should seek truth from facts. The key of all medicines is the curative effect, what we need to do is to turn the essays into real medicines, make them cure the diseases and let Artemisinin benefits human being much better’ Tu Youyou said, ‘We are not receiving the award because we work for it and it won’t finish after we receive the award, since we have started to do the study, we must show to others the practical results.’

[1] Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans (a group of single-celled microorganisms) belonging to the Plasmodium type. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases, it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death.     

[2] Lupus erythematosus is a collection of autoimmune diseases in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissues.[1] Symptoms of these diseases can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs.