PharmaSea congratulates Nobel Prize winners

Nobel Media AB 2015

18.10.2015 -

PharmaSea, a project that focuses on the development of new substances from marine organisms, congratulates three scientists, who were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize on Medicine this year for the discovery of novel natural products that have become impactful therapies for infections by roundworm parasites and malaria.

The natural world is beautiful. But at the same time nature is also full of dangerous creatures. Surprisingly some of the most insidious are very, very tiny: parasites, bacteria and viruses. Take parasites for example: millions of people are affected each year by infections and diseases such as malaria or riverblindness. The malaria parasite kills about half a million people every year – most of them children living in poor countries. And the spread of multidrug-resistant “superbugs” are a major health problem in developed countries as nowadays they make minor infections life-threatening.

But it is possible to fight these little creatures by turning nature against itself. This has been proven by three recently announced Nobel Prize winners in medicine, who discovered natural-based remedies against parasites: William Campbell, Satoshi Omura and Tu Youyou. All three scientists have made outstanding contributions to humanity, and PharmaSea is proud to join the chorus congratulating them on their well-deserved honour from the Nobel committee: “This confirms the fact that nature is still an important source of pharmaceuticals for hard to treat medical conditions,” says PharmaSea’s project leader Marcel Jaspars.

Originally trained in traditional Chinese medicine, Tu Youyou was honoured for the discovery of Artemisinin, a drug which she isolated from the plant Artemisia annua (Asteraceae). Artemisinin proved to be a spectacularly effective drug against malaria by rapidly killing Plasmodium parasites at an early stage in their development. Artemisinin, is part of a current combination therapy for malaria that has been reported to reduce the mortality from this parasite by 20-30%. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura discovered Avermectin, which kills parasitic worms causing river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. Satoshi Omura was honoured with the Nobel Prize for his discovery of novel bacterial strains and their bioactive constituents such as Streptomyces avermitilis, which produced the anti-filarial drug. William Campbell showed that the drug Avermectin was effective against roundworm parasites. Due to the effects of Avermectin and its analogues, these diseases are on the verge of eradication. Marcel Jaspars adds: “The discovery and development of Avermectin from a soil bacterium shows that molecules from remote regions of chemical space are critical for the successful treatment of parasitic diseases.”

In the PharmaSea project, Marcel Jaspars is also exploring remote extreme environments. The PharmaSea scientists collect samples from some of the hottest, deepest and coldest places on the planet and screen them to uncover marine microbes and new bioactive compounds to evaluate their potential of producing new chemistry with biological activity against bacterial infections including tuberculosis.