Trinity Graduate William Campbell Awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine

5 October 2015

Trinity College Dublin graduate, Professor William Campbell has been jointly awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The announcement was made by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet this morning, October 5th, 2015.

Professor Campbell and Professor Satoshi Omura were jointly awarded the prize for their discoveries concerning a drug against infections caused by roundworm parasites. The drug, Avermectin, the derivatives of which, have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The drug has also shown efficacy against a growing range of other parasitic diseases.

Professor Campbell  is the third Trinity graduate to have been awarded a Nobel Prize,  joining physicist E.T.S. Walton who won the Nobel Prize for splitting the atom, and Samuel Beckett for his contribution to literature.

Pictured in 2012, accepting an honorary degree at Trinity College Dublin for his contribution to science, is Professor William Campbell (middle) pictured with University Chancellor, Trinity College Dublin, Dr Mary Robinson, and Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

“Professor Campbell was centrally involved in developing the cure against river blindness,” said Dr Patrick Prendergast, the Provost of Trinity College Dublin welcoming the announcement. “In 1987 he spearheaded the decision by Merck to distribute that cure free to millions of people in what became one of the first and foremost examples of a public/private partnership in international health. Annually 25 million people are treated under this scheme preventing new cases of river blindness.”

Professor William Campbell, originally from Ramelton in  Donegal,  graduated with first class honours in zoology from  Trinity College Dublin in 1952. He went on to receive a PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1957, following which he worked with the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research  until 1990.  He is currently a research fellow Emeritus at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.

Professor Campbell visited Trinity College Dublin recently where he was conferred with a Doctor in Science (Sc.D) in June 2012 in recognition for his  scientific research and contribution to society. He also gave a lecture to staff and students in zoology on the ‘The Story of Ivermectin’.  (The bioactive agent Avermectin, was chemically modified to a more effective compound called Ivermectin.)

Trinity Professor in Zoology Celia Holland  said: “All of us in zoology are immensely proud of Professor Campbell for winning the Nobel prize. Bill’s development of  the drug Ivermectin  has had a massive impact on the world, saving millions from diseases caused by parasites.  This award to Bill underscores the impact that zoologists can have upon the world by understanding how animals, parasites and microbes interact and by using that knowledge to develop new ways to tackle human and animal diseases."

"As a zoologist, Bill was certainly ahead of his time, his research underlines the importance of the very modern concept of ‘One Health’ which promotes an understanding of parasite ecology and its interactions with wild and domestic animals, humans and their environment. This integrated view of zoology is very much in keeping with the training that we give to zoologists today.”

Professor Campbell was also involved in the development of several drugs used in human and veterinary medicine.

Media Contact

Caoimhe Ni Lochlainn, College Press Officer | nilochlc@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 2310 / +353 87 995 8014 (out of office hours)

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