Tu Youyou is the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize for her discovery of artemisinin, a drug used to treat malaria. After contracting tuberculosis at the age of 16, she determined that she wanted to study medicine in order to help others. She enrolled in Beijing Medical School to study pharmacology and worked at the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine after she graduated. In 1967, Tu became head of the project to fight the devastating effects of chloroquine-resistant malaria. Her team turned to ancient Chinese medical texts and found references to sweet wormwood. From this, they distilled the compound artemisinin and found it to be very effective. The drug saved millions of lives and is described as one of the most important pharmaceutical inventions in the last 50 years.

Learn more at nobelprize.org