Satoshi Omura was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for developing a new drug, which has nearly eradicated river blindness and dramatically reduced mortality from other devastating diseases. Omura made the discovery that led to this drug while a visiting professor at Wesleyan in the early 1970s.
Omura has remained in touch with Wesleyan colleagues since then and in 2005 was appointed the first Max Tishler Professor of Chemistry, an honorary position. He returns to campus every few years to meet with faculty and present his current research.
The Nobel Committee honored Omura and William Campbell for discovering the drug Avermectin, as well as Youyou Tu, who discovered Artemisinin, on Oct. 5.
“These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” the committee said in a statement. “The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”
Omura came to Wesleyan in 1971 while on sabbatical from the Kitasato Institute in Tokyo, and worked closely with the late Professor of Chemistry Max Tishler for a year and a half. According to Albert Fry, the E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry, who was a young professor here at the time, Omura brought to Wesleyan a number of extracts from soil samples to analyze their effects on harmful microorganisms.