BioZoom nr. 4, 2014


Gertrude B. Elion (1918-99). The U.S. pharmacologist Gertrude Elion received the Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for her development of drugs used to treat several major diseases. Elion's work was spurred by a relative's disease: her grandfather died of stomach cancer when she was 15, and it was then that Elion decided to spend her life looking for a cure. She later said, "I had no specific bent toward science until my grandfather died of cancer. I decided nobody should suffer that much." After her Master's in Chemistry from New York University, Gertrude Elion worked at Wellcome Research Laboratories, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA (now GlaxoSmithKline). She, sometimes in conjunction with George H. Hitchings, developed a number of new pharmaceuticals designed to kill pathogens without harming healthy cells, including the first treatment for leukemia, anti-rejection drug for organ transplants, malaria, viral herpes, urinary and respiratory tract infections, meningitis, and septicemia, cancer treatment, the first immune-suppressive agent used in organ transplantation and treatment of AIDS. Gertude Elion and George Hitchings shared the Prize in 1988 with Sir James W. Black, who developed the beta-blocker propranolol and cimetidine, a drug used to treat stomach ulcers.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Foundation Archives & Manuscripts. Library reference no.: WFA WF/M/I/PR/313 Licensed by Creative Commons 4.0 (