In 1972, when Tu Youyou, a scientist from Zhejiang province in China volunteered to be the first human subject for the trial of an anti-malaria drug that she had developed little did she know that she would get a Nobel prize for it one day. She won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 but doesn’t have a PhD. She never went to a medical college.
Her drug was inspired by ancient Chinese texts from the Zhou, Qing, and Han Dynasties. Tu is respected in the field of medicine for her courage to test the drug first on herself.
Tu Youyou was born in a family of four brothers. She received formal education along with her brothers. All was fine till Tu Youyou got to her teens. Her education was halted at the age of 16 after she was infected with Tuberculosis. She recovered after two years. However, this bedridden phase of her life intrigued her to dive deep into medicine. Her thirst to find a cure for people like her suffering later earned her the prestigious “NOBEL PRIZE” in 2015.
“If I could learn and have (medical) skills, I could not only keep myself healthy but also cure many other patients,” Tu wrote in her autobiography.
Tu Youyou completed her graduation in pharmaceutics in 1955 from Beijing Medical College. Identifying and classifying medicinal plants, extracting and analysing their chemical composition was an essential part of her educational journey. Having hands-on experience of western medicine through her graduation, she also opted for a two-year course on traditional Chinese medicine. This later gave her most needed the knowledge to combine both traditional Chinese medicines and modern western methods to find a cure for malaria.
Mission 523, was Mao Zedong’s top-secret project initiated to eradicate Malaria. It was named after the date it was launched May 23, 1967. During the Vietnam war, a mass number of soldiers were infected with malaria.