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Satoshi Omura has long been regarded as preeminent in identifying antibiotics and other useful compounds originating from nature’s microorganisms. His innovative and pioneering research has resulted in the discovery of many new microbes and over 500 novel chemicals, several of which have been developed into widely used medicines in human and veterinary health, as well as in agriculture. These include several leading antibiotics, plus the groundbreaking staurosporine, the forerunner of many of today’s widely used and highly effective anti-cancer compounds, such as Gleevec and ivermectin, a truly extraordinary, exceptionally safe, multipurpose compound; the world’s first “endectocide,” capable of killing a wide variety of organisms inside and outside the body.

The trailblazing nature of his work has recently been recognized through his receipt of the 2014 Gairdner Global Health Award, rapidly followed by sharing the 2015 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. It is remarkably uncommon that a biorganic chemist should receive two of the world’s most prestigious prizes in global public health, the accolades being primarily due to the unheralded and unmatched discovery, development, distribution and global impact of the truly astonishing ivermectin. They were also testament to Omura’s pragmatic insight into the need to set up international public-private partnerships (with Merck & Co.) and his unwavering belief that nature’s microorganisms hold the answers to all our health and many other needs. His career-long association with the renowned Kitasato Institute also instilled in him the primary philosophy of the institute’s eponymous founder, namely that the fruits of scientific research should be exploited for the benefit of communities everywhere as quickly as possible.

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