William C. Campbell (scientist)

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William C. Campbell
William C. Campbell 4983-1-2015.jpg
William C. Campbell, Nobel Laureate in medicine in Stockholm December 2015
William Cecil Campbell

(1930-06-28) 28 June 1930 (age 88)
Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland
Residence North Andover, Massachusetts [1]
NationalityIrish, American
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
University of Wisconsin
Known for Avermectin
Awards Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2015)
Scientific career
Fields Parasitic diseases
Institutions Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research
Drew University

William Cecil Campbell (born 28 June 1930) is an Irish and American biologist and parasitologist known for his work in discovering a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworms, for which he was jointly awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. [2] He helped to discover a class of drugs called avermectins, whose derivatives have been shown to have "extraordinary efficacy" in treating River blindness and Lymphatic filariasis, among other parasitic diseases affecting animals and humans. [3] Campbell worked at the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research 1957–1990, and is currently a research fellow emeritus at Drew University. [4] [5]

Biologist scientist studying living organisms

A biologist is a scientist who has specialized knowledge in the field of biology, the scientific study of life. Biologists involved in fundamental research attempt to explore and further explain the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living matter. Biologists involved in applied research attempt to develop or improve more specific processes and understanding, in fields such as medicine and industry.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine One of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded yearly for outstanding discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in his will in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Nobel was interested in experimental physiology and wanted to establish a prize for scientific progress through laboratory discoveries. The Nobel Prize is presented at an annual ceremony on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel's death, along with a diploma and a certificate for the monetary award. The front side of the medal displays the same profile of Alfred Nobel depicted on the medals for Physics, Chemistry, and Literature. The reverse side is unique to this medal. The most recent Nobel prize was announced by Karolinska Institute on 1 October 2018, and has been awarded to American James P. Allison and Japanese Tasuku Honjo – for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.


The avermectins are a series of drugs and pesticides used to treat parasitic worms and insect pests. They are a 16-membered macrocyclic lactone derivatives with potent anthelmintic and insecticidal properties. These naturally occurring compounds are generated as fermentation products by Streptomyces avermitilis, a soil actinomycete. Eight different avermectins were isolated in four pairs of homologue compounds, with a major (a-component) and minor (b-component) component usually in ratios of 80:20 to 90:10. Other anthelmintics derived from the avermectins include ivermectin, selamectin, doramectin, and abamectin.



Satoshi Omura (left) and William C. Campbell (right) in Stockholm, December 2015. Satoshi Omura 4977-2015.jpg
Satoshi Ōmura (left) and William C. Campbell (right) in Stockholm, December 2015.

Campbell was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, Ireland in 1930 , [6] the third son of R. J. Campbell, a farm supplier. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin with James Desmond Smyth, [7] graduating in 1952 with first class honours in Zoology. He then attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison on a Fulbright Scholarship, earning his PhD degree in 1957 for work on the liver fluke, a parasite affecting sheep. [5]

Ramelton Town in Ulster, Ireland

Ramelton is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 1,266.

University of Wisconsin–Madison Public university in Wisconsin, USA

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university in Madison, Wisconsin. Founded when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848, UW–Madison is the official state university of Wisconsin, and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It was the first public university established in Wisconsin and remains the oldest and largest public university in the state. It became a land-grant institution in 1866. The 933-acre (378 ha) main campus, located on the shores of Lake Mendota, includes four National Historic Landmarks. The University also owns and operates a historic 1,200-acre (486 ha) arboretum established in 1932, located 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the main campus.

The Fulbright Program, including the Fulbright–Hays Program, is one of several United States Cultural Exchange Programs whose goal is to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is one of the most prestigious and competitive fellowship programs in the world. Via the program, competitively-selected American citizens including students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists may receive scholarships or grants to study, conduct research, teach, or exercise their talents abroad; and citizens of other countries may qualify to do the same in the United States of America. The program was founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946 and is considered to be one of the most widely recognized and prestigious scholarships in the world. The program provides 8,000 grants annually.

From 1957 to 1990 Campbell worked at Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research, [8] and from 1984 to 1990 he was a Senior Scientist and Director with Assay Research and Development. He became a US citizen in 1964. [1] One of his discoveries while at Merck was the fungicide thiabendazole, used to treat potato blight, historically a scourge of Ireland. [5] [9] Thiabendazole is also used to treat trichinosis in humans. [10]

Merck & Co., Inc., d.b.a. Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) outside the United States and Canada, is an American multinational pharmaceutical company and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Great Famine (Ireland) Famine in Ireland, 1845–1849

The Great Famine, or the Great Hunger, was a period in Ireland between 1845 and 1849 of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. With the most severely affected areas in the west and south of Ireland, where the Irish language was primarily spoken, the period was contemporaneously known in Irish as An Drochshaol, loosely translated as the "hard times". The worst year of the period, that of "Black 47", is known in Irish as Bliain an Drochshaoil. During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% and 25%.

Trichinosis parasitic disease due to invasion by Trichinella spp.

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by roundworms of the Trichinella type. During the initial infection, invasion of the intestines can result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Migration of larvae to muscle, which occurs about a week after being infected, can cause swelling of the face, inflammation of the whites of the eyes, fever, muscle pains, and a rash. Minor infection may be without symptoms. Complications may include inflammation of heart muscle, central nervous system involvement, and inflammation of the lungs.

Campbell is best known for his work on parasitic diseases. Japanese microbiologist Satoshi Ōmura isolated and cultured many varieties of natural soil-based bacteria from the group Streptomyces. Campbell lead a team at Merck in studying Ōmura's cultures and examining their effectiveness in treating parasites in domestic and farm animals. From the sample Streptomyces avermitilis, naturally produced in soil, he derived macrocylclic lactone. After further modification, it was named ivermectin (generic) or Mectizan. [11]

<i>Streptomyces</i> genus of Actinobacteria

Streptomyces is the largest genus of Actinobacteria and the type genus of the family Streptomycetaceae. Over 500 species of Streptomyces bacteria have been described. As with the other Actinobacteria, streptomycetes are gram-positive, and have genomes with high GC content. Found predominantly in soil and decaying vegetation, most streptomycetes produce spores, and are noted for their distinct "earthy" odor that results from production of a volatile metabolite, geosmin.

Streptomyces avermitilis is a bacterium species in the genus Streptomyces.

In 1978, having identified a successful treatment for a type of worms affecting horses, Campbell realised that similar treatments might be useful against related types of worms that affect humans. In 1981, Merck carried out successful Phase 1 treatment trials in Senegal and France on river blindness. [3] [12] Taken orally, the drug paralyses and sterilises the parasitic worm that causes the illness. [13] Merck went on to study the treatment of elephantiasis. The research of Satoshi Ōmura, William Campbell, and their co-workers created a new class of drugs for the treatment of parasites. [3] [12]

In 1987, Merck decided to donate Mectizan to developing countries. [13] Campbell was instrumental in that decision. [8] [14] With the World Health Organization they created an "unprecedented" drug donation program, with the intention of wiping out the disease. [13] As of 2001 an estimated 25 million people were being treated each year, in a total of 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. [12] [15] [16] [17] As of 2013, the Carter Center independently verified that the disease had been eradicated in Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico. [18]

World Health Organization Specialised agency of the United Nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organisation, was an agency of the League of Nations.

Carter Center American nonprofit organization

The Carter Center is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He and his wife Rosalynn Carter partnered with Emory University just after his defeat in the 1980 U.S. Presidential elections. The center is located in a shared building adjacent to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum on 37 acres (150,000 m2) of parkland, on the site of the razed neighborhood of Copenhill, two miles (3 km) from downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The library and museum are owned and operated by the United States National Archives and Records Administration, while the Center is governed by a Board of Trustees, consisting of business leaders, educators, former government officials, and philanthropists.

Colombia Country in South America

Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a sovereign state largely situated in the northwest of South America, with territories in Central America. Colombia shares a border to the northwest with Panama, to the east with Venezuela and Brazil and to the south with Ecuador and Peru. It shares its maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Colombia is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments, with the capital in Bogotá.

The greatest challenge for science is to think globally, think simply and act accordingly. It would be disastrous to neglect the diseases of the developing world. One part of the world affects another part. We have a moral obligation to look after each other, but we're also naturally obligated to look after our own needs. It has to be both. [7]

From 1990 to 2010, when he retired, Campbell was a research fellow at Drew University in Madison, N.J., where he supervised undergraduate research and taught courses in parasitology. [12] He has written about the history of parasitology in Antarctic exploration, including the work of surgeon Edward L. Atkinson in Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition. [8] [19]

In 2002, Campbell was elected member of the United States National Academy of Sciences. [20] In 2015, he and Satoshi Ōmura shared half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on therapies against infections caused by roundworm parasites, using derivatives of avermectin. [3] [21] (The other half went to Tu Youyou for work on malaria treatments. [3] ) Campbell is the seventh Irish person to be awarded a Nobel Prize, including Ernest Walton was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 [7] and Samuel Beckett for Literature in 1968. [22]

Personal life

William C. Campbell is married to Mary Mastin Campbell. [8] He is a published poet and painter. [23] His recreational activities include table tennis and kayaking. [7]

Awards and honours

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  1. 1 2 "Prof. William Campbell, of NJ, wins Nobel Prize in medicine". News 12 New Jersey . Associated Press. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  2. "William C Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura and Youyou Tu win Nobel prize in medicine". The Guardian. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Press Release: William C. Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura, Youyou Tu". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  4. Molin, Anna (5 October 2015). "Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Awarded to William C. Campbell, Satoshi Omura, Youyou Tu". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 Scott, Dermot. "William C. Campbell (Sc.D.)". Ramelton Tidy Towns. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  6. "William C. Campbell – Facts". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Murphy, Darragh (9 October 2015). "Meet Ireland's new Nobel Laureate, William C Campbell". The Irish Times . Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Overstreet, Robin M. (2008). "Presentation of the 2008 ASP Distinguished Service Award to William C. Campbell". Faculty Publications from the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  9. Annual Report on Research and Technical Work of the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland. Great Britain: The Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland. 1975. p. 149.
  10. Jelliffe, E. F. Patrice; Jelliffe, Derrick B. (1982). Adverse Effects of Foods. Boston, MA: Springer US. p. 277. ISBN   9781461333616 . Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  11. "History". Merck & Co., Inc.
  12. 1 2 3 4 Avril, Tom (6 October 2015). "Former Merck scientist shares Nobel in medicine". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  13. 1 2 3 "Merck Offers Free Distribution of New River Blindness Drug". The New York Times. 22 October 1987. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  14. Siddall, Mark (13 October 2015). "A Noble and Laudable Nobel Laureate: William C. Campbell". HuffPost. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  15. Sturchio, Jeffrey L (2001). "The Case of Ivermectin: Lessons and Implications for Improving Access to Care and Treatment in Developing Countries". Community Eye Health. 14 (38): 22–23. PMC   1705916 . PMID   17491909.
  16. "African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)". World Health Organization. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  17. "MORE THAN 25 Years: The MECTIZAN® Donation Program". Merck Be Well. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  18. Damico, Kathleen (29 October 2015). "Nobel Laureate Dr. William C. Campbell: A man of character, passion and art". PRWeb. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  19. Campbell, William C.; Overstreet, Robin M. (1994). "Historical Basis of Binomials Assigned to Helminths Collected on Scott's Last Antarctic Expedition" (PDF). Journal of the Helminthological Society of Washington. 61 (1): 1–11. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  20. "Member Directory | William Campbell". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  21. "Irish scientist wins Nobel Prize for Medicine". RTÉ News. 5 October 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  22. "Samuel Beckett - Facts". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  23. "Dr. William Campbell: Nobel Laureate, Painter, Actor, Writer". Drew University.