Artemisinin 青蒿素

This first scientific paper is a real bombshell. The drug was not discovered in China at all, but by a Yugoslav chemist called Milutin Stefanovic. His name has been in the frame for a few years, but no one seems to have bothered chasing him up, so that's what I did. He's now a very old man in his 80s who lives in retirement in Belgrade, and unfortunately I couldn't speak to him in person.

But a former student of his, Bogdan Solaja, who is now a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Belgrade, kindly sent me an original scientific abstract, published in 1972, which I think confirms that Stefanovic discovered the drug before the Chinese. Stefanovic didn't know it could cure malaria, and I think he probably studied it because of Soviet claims about the antibacterial properties of a herb called Artemisia annua. A. annua contains artemisinin in quite large amounts.

But that's not the point here, so I give you a scanned version of the original abstract, presented at the Eighth International Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products, held in New Delhi, India, 6-12 February 1972.

Stefanovic got the chemical structure a little wrong, but in my opinion he's describing artemisinin. How this relates to the Chinese discovery of the drug, well that's something I'll be discussing over the coming months.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I am a physician woknking in malaria therapies. Particularly with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT). It's several months I'm trying to find a copy (or a photocopy) of the "Project 523". I had the opportunity to speak with dr. K. Arnold a couple of years ago, in Philadelphia. Could you kindly try to help me to find a copy? My email address is: Many thanks. Marco