UW-Madison: Nobel Week: UW grad Campbell honored

CONTACT: Terry Devitt, [email protected], 608-262-8282

MADISON – University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate William C. Campbell, whose co-discovery of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin improved the lives of tens of millions of people in impoverished corners of the world, will receive his Nobel Prize this week.

Campbell and his collaborator Satoshi Omura were named co-recipients of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Oct. 5. The pair were cited for their work to develop a drug highly effective against the microscopic parasites that cause river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis – a condition that affects millions of people, mostly in Africa and Asia.

Campbell and the other 2015 Nobel laureates are in Stockholm for a week of celebration, lectures and concerts, culminating on Dec. 10, Nobel Day, with the investiture of this year’s prizewinners. The award ceremony will be followed by a banquet at Stockholm City Hall and dinner at the Swedish Royal Palace. Campbell delivered his lecture Monday.

As a result of the work of Campbell and Omura, river blindness, once endemic to impoverished tropical regions of the world, has been nearly eradicated. Since the drug was first approved for use in humans in 1982, nearly 225 million doses have been distributed free of charge through the efforts of drug manufacturer Merck and the Carter Center, an organization created by former President Jimmy Carter in partnership with Emory University to promote human rights and alleviate human suffering.

The citation from the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute, which annually confers the prestigious prizes, states that the “importance of ivermectin for improving the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals with river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, primarily in the poorest regions of the world, is immeasurable.”

Variants of the drug found by Omura and Campbell are widely used not only in human medicine, but also to treat animals for parasitic infections. The drugs are used to control parasites in dogs, horses and other livestock with heartworm, ear mites and intestinal parasites as the target organisms.

Campbell was given an honorary degree by UW-Madison in 2005.