Tu Youyou is a Chinese medical scientist, pharmaceutical chemist, and educator. She won the 2011 Lasker Award in Clinical Medicine for discovering artemisinin (also known as Qinghaosu) and dihydroartemisinin, used to treat malaria, which saved millions of lives. Tu was the first native Chinese to win Lasker award in history who was educated in China and whose work was carried out in China.The discovery of artemisinin and its treatment of malaria is regarded as a significant breakthrough of tropical medicine in 20th Century and health improvement for people of tropical developing countries in South Asia, Africa, and South America.
Tu was born in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China on 30 December 1930.In 1951, she matriculated at Peking University School of Medicine (In 1952, the Medical School became independent as Beijing Medical College, later renamed Beijing Medical University in 1985. On 3 April 2000, Beijing Medical University was merged with Peking University and is now known as Peking University Health Science Center).Tu studied at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and graduated in 1955. Later Tu was trained for two and a half years in traditional Chinese medicine.
Tu worked at the Academy of Chinese Medicine (now named as China Academy of Chinese Medical Research) in Beijing after graduation. She was promoted to tenured researcher in 1980 (as graduate tutor), and in 2001 promoted to academic advisor for doctorate candidates. Currently she is the Chief Scientist in the Academy.
Before 2011, Tu had been obscure for decades, and is described as "almost completely forgotten by people" by Wen Wei Po in Hong Kong.
A 2007 interview shows Tu's living conditions are very poor.Her office is in an old apartment building in Dongcheng District, Beijing, prone to heating shortages, and has only two electrical household appliances - a telephone and a refrigerator, which she uses to store herb samples.
Tu is regarded as the Professor of Three None's - no postgraduate degree, no study or research experience abroad, and not a member of any Chinese national academies, i.e. Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering.Up until 1979, there were no postgraduate degree programs in China, and China was largely isolated from the rest of the world. Tu is now regarded as a representative figure of the first generation Chinese medical workers since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award