A Noble and Laudable Nobel Laureate: William C. Campbell

One day in the early 1970s, Bill Campbell (one of this year’s 3 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) stumbled on something truly remarkable. Bill had already been hard at work in Merck’s Therapeutic Research institute for nearly a decade, applying his efforts to understanding the effects of various agents on a wide range of parasitic organisms, mostly worms.

Parasitic worms plague every livestock operation and horse farm around the world, especially in places where domesticated animals outnumber people. Long gone were the days in which the treatment options were limited to toxic doses of dry-cleaning fluid (carbon tetrachloride). The search was on for novel antiparasitic agents.

But testing each new compound required the painstaking recovery of fresh worms from a constant slaughter of infected animals. What Bill stumbled on that day was the discovery that larval worms would survive freezing at — 321 F in liquid nitrogen! The implications for research were huge. Now there would be a constant supply of test subjects right from the freezer. Campbell later showed that the worms could survive freezing for almost a year.

Dr. William C. Campbell did not win his Nobel Prize for that singular groundbreaking stroke of genius. Yet it remains one of which he is particularly fond.

Like many of us parasitologists, Bill started out in this field as a graduate student deeply fascinated with the life-cycles of parasites. Delving into the life cycle of a parasite entails immersion into the behavior, ecology and anatomy of whatever that worm infects at every stage; deer and snails for Bill. Even now Campbell extols the beauty evident through the lives of parasites that thoroughly riddle Nature.

Nor was it for the way in which Bill Campbell —> Read More