04 June 2007

Dr. Yallapragada Subbarow

by Dr. Rajan

Manhunt for a TB patient! It sounds like they are searching for an undetected suicide bomber.
Extremely resistant or multidrug-resistant pulmonary TB (MDR-TB) is not uncommon in the world. We should always keep in mind that communicable infections donot respect political or geographic borders any more. It is like trying to convince people that if a part of the fruit is rotten, it is not harmful if you eat the rest of it. The CDC knows very well that MDR_TB is in plenty out side USA. They should have taken steps at war speed when they came to know the ememrgence of MDR_TB decades ago. The CDC can not sleep over it for such a long time and suddenly try to seek measures to legally restrict movements of one patient labelled as 'extremely durg resistant'. The attitude that you can be happy and be safe and secure as long as the deadly bug does not come into USA, is by itself unprofessional and unsafe for everybody. It is obviously descriminative to do "manhunt" only if he is some body inside USA. If some one tries to tell us that CDC is meant only for USA, the things are different!

Another aspect of looking at the matters in connection with how things are working in the field of safegaurding the people of the globe is not at all encouraging.The descrimination meted out to peolple dedicated to this life saving field is clearly unhealthy. This has generated an atmosphere of doing research only " for a gain".There are some masterly examples where the highest hounours ( not to be mistaken for money in them!) have eluded the really worthy people and favoured only the others. Important theme of this communication is that we should not send wrong message by not honouring the right person and hounougring his junoior or the wrong person for some unspeakable reasons.

In the first quarter of this century there were persons and groups of people who had devotion for research. For just the asking, they gave out life-saving molecules like vitamins, anticancer drugs, antifilarial and antihelminthics, antibiotics both oridnary and broad-spectrum, and saved the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians and paveved the way for whole lot of reserach which has brought solace to the whole world. If you claim that biotechnology, genomics, bio-energetics and nano-bio-tehnology is all modern and recent, you are thorougly mistaken.
The story actually started way back in late 1920s.

To cut a long story short, there was a man called Dr. Yallapragada Subbarow, who came to the USA in 1925 and lead the reaserch for discoveery of ATP (1929), the very primordial molecule in energy transduction from sun to our biosphere. He laid the very foundation for bilogical reaserach wonders of today! There was a time when, when ever there was a need for some new drug molecuele or mass produce a drug, the clinicians, pathologists and even the government of USA used to send requests and prevail upon him to synthesize them or manufacture and pass it on to them. That was the confidence they had in him. Rational clinical trials took place using those molecules and brought out success for the first time in the history of modern medicine in treating intractable infections, stubborn anemias and incurable deadly cancer. These days one has to use an electron-microscope to find a person like him.
Although he lead the teams, the honours went to the other persons in the same team.

The folates that he and his teammates gave are so commonplace today that you see them being present in the beverages you consume, the toothepaste that you use and see them being medically administered to every un-born and the new-born and the adults all over the world, be it in a city or a hill tribe. Many other molecules which make up the B-complex vitamins were synthesized by him and his team. He was the Director of Research in Lederley Laboratories and the Chief of Biological chemistry in Harvard Medical School, Boston, when he synthesized the first ever anti-cancer molecule, Aminopterin (1947), and on the request from a pathologist in Boston passed it on to him for rational clinical trials in acute leukemia in children. Very soon after succeessful trial report, which of course never gave him the deserved recognition, inspired his team members to synthesize more safer Methotrexate, which is a mainstay in cancer chemotheray today. Methotrexate has many other non-cancer clinical applications. For this discovery of a firstever cancedr cure, one of his team members got the Nobel Prize and he did not even get a share of it.

In fact one of his life time missions, according to his own statement, was to generate some more molecules to the benifit of mankind before his early death in August 1948. If he were to be alive today the panic created by this drug-resistant fugutive would have been, probably not arisen at all. His soul may be looking out for some body on dear-earth to take his guidance and bring out some molecules to contain the uncontainable diseases.

He was in a gubernacular position in Lederely labs of American Cyanamid Company and mass manufactured millions of doses of Penicillin. for the sake of suffering soldiers of WW-II and the public. He gave the first ever broad spectrum antiobiotic, Tetracyline (1948), which has saved millions since then, but the world came to know that it was his gift only when there was an epidemic of Plague in 1994, in India. In 1994-5 America celebrated his Centenary in a big way. Only then some of his countrymen heard his name. His research gave the first and the only effective antifilarial drug, Diethyl Carbamazine. As he was a Gandhian the accolade was given to some other person. The foundation he laid has given rise to both curative as well as preventive mendicine of today. Public liffe in both the hemispheres, is so very like a sojourn today compared to the dark days of poor medical faicilities. His name is found in connection with many drugs and other related molecules, in many science and biological discovery Timelines along with Aristotle, Newton, William Harvey, Alexander Fleming. He is one of the most quoted persons in the history of Science. He is acknowledged rightly in many Nobel lectures, but unfortunately missing in Nobel winner's list.

Government of India has brought out his commemoration stamp and instiuted a National oration in his name. But still his countrymen donot think that it is their duty and a proud previlege to honour him. It is strange but true un-indian attitude to ge so ungrateful and escape from the duty in the name of being modest. It was so strange to see that a scolarly bok on Biochemistry of medical students written in 2005 failed to mention his name. In fact there may be some thing more than we discern, hidden behind this mystery of missing Nobels!

Indeed, his devotion and love for mankind was undoubtedly a mesaiah's work, which clearly puts it beyond the scope of the Nobel prize. The world is still awaiting for one more sermon on the Mount or some more Commandments or some more Geethopadeshas to get an attitude of justful distribution of honours. I have been looking forward to a day when the First Government, thinks of thanks-giving by respecting him with the highest civilian honour of this globe. Probably this will be the right message to the scienttific world that work with right spirit will always be commemorated and never forgotten. His birth day is January 12th 1895, and his 60th death anniversary will be on Aug 28th 2007.

Please visit: ysubbarow.com , cdc.gov for details.

Please interact: drtknag@yahoo.com.

Dated: May 31st, 2007. Novi. MI.


Srik said...

Hello Doctor,

This is an incredible piece of information. In India, most of us do not(or do not care to) know who YSR is, His contributions have been forgotten long back.

As some saying goes "Upadyayah cha Vaidyah Kaaryante aprayojakah", we have proved it true.

Until I went thru this article, I didnt know about Dr. YSR. Thanks for this post. I have sent this article to all of my friends. Lets appreciate the real man responsible for our longevity!!

Conclusion in the article shows your positive attitude towards the world. I think we need to understand, appreciate and try to imbibe such optimism in to our lives.

Thank you once more for this wonrful information.

reborn said...

Having studied all those drugs , I never heard of him ..They are all wonder drugs in medicine ... Thank u for this post ..

ರಾಜೇಶ್ ನಾಯ್ಕ said...

This is great information. Thanks Dr.Rajan and thanks to Srikant also for bringing us Dr.Rajan's articles.

If Dr.Rajan continues to write then I have no doubt that this backbencher's forgettable corner will become frontbencher's interesting corner!

bellur said...

dr.rajan and srik,
thanks to both of you.
simply amazing story.
aa kaaladalli aa mahanubhavaru ashtuu kashta pattirohotthige, naavu nishtu aaramagi irodu.

unfortunately, namage avaru patta shrama gottilla. we are undoing whatever the geniuses have done.

mouna said...


thank you doctor and srik, if not for you, we wouldn't have gained this valuable nugget of info.

thanks to dr.ysr, we have drugs to fight diseases today. wish he'd be recognised for his immense contribution...

me too, i mailed this article to my friends.

Dr. Rajan said...

Do you know that America and the world celebrated the centenary of Rachel Carson, last week, for writing a book called SILENT SPRING and caused a revolution and ultimately won it, despite some people calling her an enemy of scientific advancement. DDT was banned from US and the world thirty years back because of the public response to it raised a hue and cry. The manufacturer-lords had to diversify. Are you lamenting for the malaria sufferers?
Read her biography. It is inspiring.
Visit dana-farber institute of cancer which was founded by Dr. Sydney Farber, a pathologist, who supposed conducted research of leukemic children after obtaining the medicine from YSR, and never highlighted his name, except for a passing acknowledgment in one of his published articles.
You will know that he (Farber) is called the "father of cancer chemotherapy" for making the 'clinicians' in varioous hospitals, to conduct the research, by distributing to them the chemical synthesized by YSR and his fellow workers.
Billions of dollars were given as grants to that hospital research center.
It speaks of the serendipity-phenomenon as somebody puts it.
Why , in these days of info tech and communication net working in the world
we should respond the same way India responded in case of JCBose and Marconi case.


Dr. Rajan said...


Pl read this.
My father used to tell about the cinema he saw in those days. I did not know anything more than this.
After I got the browsing habit I started learning about many things that I ( most of us) have been missing.
Some body has to make a film on YSR who happens to be a warrior of sort, against the diseases.

Anil said...

Thank you for this article. Dr. Subbarow Yallapragada has inspired me in many ways. I hope to one day make my contribution to humanity as he did. I also hope to one day be active in the production of a film regarding this genius.

Anil Yallapragada MD

Rajan said...

Dear Friends,
It gives me great pleasure to see how names of YSR, D.Kotnis, SCBose, and the other 'praathhsmaNeeyaru' are lilting on our tongues. Its our duty to keep repeating these names. Hinduism belives not in one name of god, but in many names of the same Unity. But more importantly in saying the word daily.
5000 images of Benjamin Franklin's ( better you read bio in Wiki)in one city. They have been worshiping him since 200 years. He was 'everything' for them.
Nicholas Tesla (not an American)is a celebrity in USA for his gift to man kind-Electrcity.
We have many such crusaders who have made this world livable-yes much more comfartable than before1950s. Ressessions come and go like the 'chalisuvamODagaLu'. But the world is really seeing its best days. Contributions of these great lives are giving cumulative dividend to us.
It is our duty to enrich the world by our 'aLilusEve' in whatever field possible.
Nimmannellaa maathaaDis bahaLa dinagaLagithu.
Niivu chennagiri
I have been a little too busy. Of course being busy....I enjoy life.
More....some time later.
All the best