BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Eighty-four-year-old Tu Youyou arrived in Sweden on Friday to collect China's first Nobel Prize in medicine for creating an anti-malarial drug that saved millions of people across the world.
Half a century ago, the pharmacologist derived artemisinin from sweet wormwood, which she found cited in a 4th century traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) text as an ingredient to cure fever, developing a crucial drug that has significantly reduced mortality rates for malaria patients.
The laureate is scheduled to deliver a speech in Stockholm, titled "Artemisinin is a gift that TCM has for the world."
Statistics show more than 240 million people in Sub-Sahara Africa have benefitted from artemisinin, and more than 1.5 million lives are estimated to have been saved thanks to the drug since 2000.
Apart from contribution to the global fight against malaria, TCM also played a vital role in the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak across China in 2003.
However, TCM, which is based on set of beliefs about human biology, including the existence of a life force, "qi", is seldom understood or embraced by the West. Some have even labeled it a "pseudoscience." It is true it lacks a standardized guideline to administer treatments prescribed by practioners and therapists. But it is unfair to negate TCM as a whole, which is based on more than 2,000 years of practice in China.
Fortunately, the case is changing. After decades of scientific research, TCM has received wide recognition outside China and will offer more contributions to the world. More and more people have accepted and tried TCM in Canada, Netherlands and Britain, thanks in part to frequent academic exchanges and effort by overseas Chinese.
In late June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Kanglaite, an anticancer drug with active ingredients extracted from coix seed, for phase III clinical trials.
Kanglaite has been proven to have significant effects on middle or late-stage malignancies of pancreatic, lung and liver cancers. Once the phase III trial is passed, it could become the third medicine derived from TCM to enter the Western pharmacopeia following artemisinin, and ephedrine, a stimulant and decongestant derived from Mahuang.
With increasingly growing government funding and support, TCM is a booming industry in China, with a total value of 500 billion yuan (78.3 billion U.S. dollars) in 2013, a third of the total output of the country's medical industry.
China published a five-year plan in May to promote TCM by increasing its role in the national healthcare system and making TCM products and services more competitive abroad. It also set the goal that each city and county should have at least one public TCM hospital.
There is no doubt that Tu's achievement will promote TCM globally, and that the heritage passed down from Chinese ancestors will bring more gifts to the world.