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Medicine from golf course soil contributes to Nobel Prize win

Japanese Professor’s discovery benefits millions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Published:
1st March 2016
Country
Categories:
Golf and your community,Working with nature
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Professor Satoshi Omura, Nobel Prize winner and 5 handicap golfer.  
Professor Satoshi Omura, an emeritus professor at Kitasato University and passionate golfer, was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for a discovery that has transformed the treatment of parasitic diseases such as river blindness, leishmaniensis and elephantiasis, which afflict or threaten more than three billion people in some 100 nations around the world.  He takes home samples of soil from sites, including golf courses, when he believes they might possess interesting attributes. “I’ve taken them while I was playing,” he said at a press conference.  The sample that led to the discovery of the drug later called ivermectin was discovered on a golf course in not far from Tokyo. However, Omura said at the news conference that he wasn’t playing golf on that occasion!

Streptomyces
Professor Omura is widely recognised as a global expert world in the field of Bioorganic Chemistry, particularly for the discovery, development, biosynthesis and manipulation of useful chemicals derived from naturally-occurring microorganisms.  Paramount among the compounds he has unearthed are the avermectins, produced by the bacterium Streptomyces avermitilis, from which medicines have been derived and made available free to those at risk of the aforementioned horrific diseases, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the Merck pharmaceutical company.  This is considered one of the foremost public health interventions ever in the developing world, and seen to rival penicillin for its beneficial impact on global health - with over 300 million people using the compound annually.

Who knows what other life-saving compounds might be found in golf course soils, or derived from plants growing on golf courses?