Trinity College Dublin graduate, Professor William Campbell, has been jointly awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Professor Campbell and Professor Satoshi Omura were jointly awarded the prize for their discoveries concerning a drug against infections caused by roundworm parasites. The announcement was made by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet, in Sweden, on Monday morning.

The drug, which earned them an award, is Avermectin. The derivatives of the drug 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.

In a statement the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet said “Parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year’s Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating 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.

“Professor Campbell was centrally involved in developing the cure against river blindness,” said 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 honors 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.”

Trinity Professor in Zoology Celia Holland who nominated Professor Campbell for his Trinity honorary degree added “All of us in zoology are immensely proud of Professor Campbell for winning the Nobel prize. Bill’s development 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.

Below Professor Campbell delivering a lecture at Trinity College Dublin:

The other half of the prize was won but Chinese scientist Youyou Tu for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria.

The Nobel Assembly said “These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually.

“The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”

Chancellor of the Trinity College Dublin, Mary Robinson, with Professor William Campbell at Trinity.TCD