A trio of scientists earned the 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday for unlocking revolutionary treatments for malaria and roundworm, helping to roll back two parasitic diseases that blight millions of lives. Tu Youyou of China won half of the award for her work in artemisinin, a drug based on ancient Chinese herbal medicine, the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said. She is the first Chinese woman national to win a Nobel Prize in science. Tu won her award “for discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria”, which had significantly reduced the mortality rates of patients, the Nobel jury said. Read more: Tu Youyou: the Nobel Prize-winning chemist and the malaria controversy The mainland newspaper, Qianjiang Evening News, quoted Tu as saying that she heard about the win from watching television, and the award was an honour to all scientists in China. Lu Aiping, dean of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the award to Tu would bring higher recognition to Chinese medicine. Watch: Trio wins Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries in therapies against parasitic diseases “It will help raise the profile of Chinese herbal medicine on the international stage,” he said. Professor Li Guoqiao, of the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, said: “It is surely a good thing that she is awarded as a representative of the project.” Li said Tu participated in the project at an early stage, but added that “she definitely didn’t guide the whole process”. “The West has placed strong emphasis on individuals, while China is more focused on collectivism.” Tu, 84, has been chief professor at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine since 2000. She conducted research in the 1970s, at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, that led to the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has slashed the number of malaria deaths. The treatment is based on traditional medicine – a herb called sweet wormwood or Artemisia annua. Artemisinin-based drugs are now the standard combination for treating malaria since the mosquito-transferred Plasmodium parasite developed resistance to other drug types like chloroquine. According to the World Health Organisation, there were about 198 million malaria infections in 2013 and 584,000 deaths – most of them African children. Irish-born William Campbell and Satoshi Omura of Japan shared the other half for an anti-roundworm treatment dubbed avermectin, derived from soil-dwelling bacteria. They had helped to produce “a new class of drugs with extraordinary efficacy against parasitic diseases”, the Nobel jury 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.” Drugs derived from avermectin “have radically lowered” the incidence of river blindness and elephantiasis, both caused by parasitic worms, the Nobel jury said. Omura, a microbiologist, isolated new strains of a group of bacteria called Streptomyces, and successfully cultured them in the lab. Campbell, a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in the US, was born in 1930 in Ramelton, Ireland. His role was to show that a component from one of Omura’s cultures was active against parasites – this became avermectin. “I humbly accept the prize,” 80-year-old Omura, a professor emeritus at Kitasato University, said in a interview with the Nobel Foundation. He thanked the “many, many researchers” who had contributed to his findings, saying he was “very, very lucky”. This year’s Nobel laureates will share the eight million Swedish kronor (HK$7.4 million). Last year, the prize went to British-American researcher John O’Keefe and a Norwegian couple, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser, for discovering the brain’s ”inner GPS” that helps people navigate. The Nobel awards week continues on Tuesday with the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Physics Prize. The chemistry prize laureates will be revealed on Wednesday, followed by the literature prize on Thursday. The peace prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday, and the economics prize will wrap up this year’s Nobel season on Monday, October 12. Read more: Blood, sweat and tears: on the path of treating malaria The laureates will receive their prizes at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and scientist. A separate ceremony is held for the peace prize on the same date in Oslo, which Nobel wanted to include in his initiative because Norway and Sweden were joined in a union when he created the prizes.