Gertrude Belle Elion


Gertrude Belle Elion
(1918)


American pharmacologist who, along with George H. Hitchings and Sir James W. Black, received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for their development of drugs used to treat several major diseases.
Elion graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a degree in biochemistry in 1937. Finding it difficult to obtain a research position because she was a woman, she taught chemistry in high school until joining the Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories in 1944. There she was first the assistant and then the colleague of Hitchings, with whom she worked for the next four decades.

The two scientists developed an array of new drugs that were effective against leukemia, autoimmune disorders, urinary-tract infections, gout, malaria, and viral herpes. Their success was due primarily to their innovative research methods, which marked a radical departure from the trial-and-error approach taken by previous pharmacologists. Elion and Hitchings pointedly examined the difference between the biochemistry of normal human cells and those of cancer cells, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens (disease-causing agents). They then used this information to formulate drugs that could kill or inhibit the reproduction of a particular pathogen, leaving the human host's normal cells undamaged. The two reseachers' new emphasis on understanding basic biochemical and physiological processes enabled them to eliminate much guesswork and wasted effort typical previously in developing new therapeutic drugs.


Main Page | About Us | All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Timeline of Nobel Prize Winners is not affiliated with The Nobel Foundation. External sites are not endorsed or supported by http://www.nobel-winners.com/ Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved.