Yellapragada Subbarow: An Unsung Indian Hero

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Peter, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    Yellapragada Subbarow

    Yellapragada Subbarow (Telugu: యల్లాప్రగడ సుబ్బారావు; 12 January 1895 – 9 August 1948) was an Indian biochemist who discovered the function of adenosine triphosphate as an energy source in the cell, and developed methotrexate for the treatment of cancer. Most of his career was spent in the United States. Despite his isolation of ATP, Subbarow was denied tenure at Harvard[1] and remained without a green card throughout his life,[2] though he would lead some of America's most important medical research during World War II.

    He was born in Bhimavaram, Madras Presidency, now in West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. He passed through a traumatic period in his schooling at Rajahmundry (due to the premature death of close relatives by disease) and eventually matriculated in his third attempt from the Hindu High School, Madras. He passed the Intermediate Examination from the Presidency College and entered the Madras Medical College where his education was supported by friends and Kasturi Suryanarayana Murthy, whose daughter he later married. Following Gandhi's call to boycott British goods he started wearing khadi surgical dress; this incurred the displeasure of M. C. Bradfield, his surgery professor. Consequently, though he did well in his written papers, he was awarded the lesser LMS certificate and not a full MBBS degree.

    Subbarow tried to enter the Madras Medical Service without success. He then took up a job as Lecturer in Anatomy at Dr. Lakshmipathi's Ayurvedic College at Madras. He was fascinated by the healing powers of Ayurvedic medicines and began to engage in research to put Ayurveda on a modern footing.

    A chance meeting with an American doctor, who was visiting on a Rockefeller Scholarship, changed his mind.[clarification needed] The promise of support from Malladi Satyalingam Naicker Charities in Kakinada, and financial assistance raised by his father-in-law, enabled Subbarow to proceed to the U.S. He arrived in Boston on 26 October 1922.


    After earning a diploma from the Harvard Medical School he joined Harvard as a junior faculty member. With Cyrus Fiske, he developed a method for the estimation of phosphorus in body fluids and tissues. He discovered the role of phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscular activity, which earned him an entry into biochemistry textbooks in the 1930s. He obtained his Ph.D. degree the same year.

    He joined Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid (now a division of Wyeth which is owned by Pfizer), after he was denied a regular faculty position at Harvard. At Lederle, he developed a method to synthesize folic acid, Vitamin B9,[4] based on work by Lucy Wills to isolate folic acid as a protective agent against anemia. After his work on folic acid and with considerable input from Dr. Sidney Farber, he developed the important anti-cancer drug methotrexate - one of the very first cancer chemotherapy agents and still in widespread clinical use.[5][6][6][7] He also discovered[clarification needed] the drug Hetrazan which was used by the World health Organization against filariasis.[8] Under Subbarow, Benjamin Duggar made his discovery of the world's first tetracycline antibiotic, aureomycin, in 1945. This discovery was made as a result of the largest distributed scientific experiment ever performed to that date, when American soldiers who had fought all over the world were instructed at the end of WWII to collect soil samples from wherever they were, and bring the samples back for screening at Lederle Laboratories for possible anti-bacterial agents produced by natural soil fungi.

    Subbarow's colleague, George Hitchings, who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Gertrude Elion, said, "Some of the nucleotides isolated by Subbarow had to be rediscovered years later by other workers because Fiske, apparently, did not let Subbarow's contributions see the light of the day." A fungus was named Subbaromyces splendens in his honor by American Cyanamid. Writing in the April 1950 issue of Argosy, Doron K. Antrim observed, "You've probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada Subbarow. Yet because he lived you may be alive and are well today. Because he lived you may live longer."

    :sad::tsk::tsk:

    Yellapragada Subbarow - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
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  3. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    I came across this hard working scientist`s biography during a random net search. I did not even know about him and his important cancer research. He certainly deserved a Nobel Prize but was denied by the so called "just and equal" committees. :sad:
     
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  4. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    There are many others who've been denied the meaningful Nobels. One example from my state: E. C. George Sudarshan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    What was that "random net search" ?
     
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  5. Peter

    Peter Senior Member Senior Member

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    :lol:

    Dude, that is a long story. I was searching on cars. Suddenly I clicked on origin of automobiles(out of no valid reason) and then clicked on Ford. From Ford I went to America and then ended up searching Indian Americans,Indian American scientists and suddenly I came across Y. Subarrow`s article. I instantly got hooked to it.
     
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  6. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    Happens all the time.
    Looking to kill time, end up finding a jewel.
    :thumb:
     
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  7. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Should have gotten the prize for that.

    Press Release: The 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
     

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