Yellapragada Subbarow

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Yellapragada Subbarow
Yellapragada subbarao.jpg
Born (1895-01-12)12 January 1895
Bhimavaram, Madras Presidency, British India
(now in Andhra Pradesh, India)
Died 9 August 1948(1948-08-09) (aged 53)
New York, United States
Nationality Indian
Fields Medicine
Institutions Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid (Acquired by Wyeth in 1994, now Pfizer)
Alma mater

Madras Medical College

Harvard University
Known for

Discovery of the role of Phosphocreatine and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) in muscular activity
Synthesis of Folic Acid
Synthesis of Methotrexate

Discovery of Diethylcarbamazine

Yellapragada Subbarow (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.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

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.

Career in America[edit]

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.[2]

Recognition and delayed acknowledgement[edit]

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."[9] A fungus was named Subbaromyces splendens in his honor by American Cyanamid.[10] Writing in the April 1950 issue of Argosy, Doron K. Antrim observed,[11] "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."[12]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (16 November 2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon and Schuster. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. Retrieved 6 September 2011.  Quote: "Any one of these achievements should have been enough to guarantee him a professorship at Harvard. But Subbarow was a foreigner, a reclusive, nocturnal, heavily accented vegetarian who lived in a one-room apartment downtown, befriended only by other nocturnal recluses"
  2. ^ a b Pushpa Mitra Bhargava (2001). "History of Medicine: Dr. Yellapragada SubbaRow (1895-1948) - He Transformed Science; Changed Lives". Journal of the Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine 2 (1,2): 96_100. 
  3. ^ Yellapragada SubbaRow Archives OnLine
  4. ^ Farber, S; Cutler, EC; Hawkins, JW; Harrison, JH; Peirce Ec, 2nd; Lenz, GG (1947). "The Action of Pteroylglutamic Conjugates on Man". Science 106 (2764): 619–21. doi:10.1126/science.106.2764.619. PMID 17831847. 
  5. ^ Farber et al.'s article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1946, noted Dr Subbarow's work as a foundation for this landmark paper. The paper remains one of the earliest top-cited research articles and is a classic in the field of medicine.
  6. ^ a b Farber, Sidney; Farber S, Diamond LK, Mercer RD, et al. (1948). "Temporary remissions in acute leukemia in children produced by folic acid antagonist, 4-aminopteroyl-glutamic acid (aminopterin)". N. Engl. J. Med. 238 (23): 787–93. doi:10.1056/NEJM194806032382301. PMID 18860765. 
  7. ^ Miller, DR (2006). "A tribute to Sidney Farber-- the father of modern chemotherapy". British journal of haematology 134 (1): 20–6. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2141.2006.06119.x. PMID 16803563. 
  8. ^ WHO Report on Global Filaria Control 2002
  9. ^ The Hindu : Discoverer of miracle medicines - Y. Subba Row (1895-1948)
  10. ^ Taxon ID 50474
  11. ^ "Miracle man of miracle drugs: Dr Yellapragada SubbaRow". Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Dr. Yellapragada SubbaRow (1895-1948): The man and the method by Kapur, S. & Gupta, S. P. K. in Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 36(11):1087-92