Gertrude B. Elion
- Category : Biochemist
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 1/4 - Investigating / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (9,18,22,38)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 4
- Birth Year: 1918
- Birthday: 23. January
- Birthplace: New York, USA - New York
- Category: Biochemist
- Profile: 1-4
- Type: Emotional Manifesting Generator
- Inc.Cross: The Unexpected 4
- Definition: Double Split - Small (9,18,22,38)
- Variables: BRL-MRR
- 1020 Awakening
- 0731 The Alpha
- 2750 Preservation
- 2946 Discovery
- 3041 Recognition
Gertrude Belle Elion (January 23, 1918 – February 21, 1999) was an American biochemist and pharmacologist, and a 1988 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Working alone as well as with George H. Hitchings, Elion developed a multitude of new drugs, using innovative research methods that would later lead to the development of the AIDS drug AZT.
Life and work
Born in New York City, to immigrant parents Bertha (Cohen) and Robert Elion, a dentist, she graduated from Hunter College in 1937 and New York University (M.Sc.) in 1941. Unable to obtain a graduate research position, she worked as a lab assistant and a high school teacher. Later, she left to work as an assistant to George H. Hitchings at the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company (now GlaxoSmithKline). She never obtained a formal Ph.D., but was later awarded an honorary Ph.D from Polytechnic University of New York in 1989 and honorary SD degree from Harvard university in 1998. She attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now known as Polytechnic University of New York) but did not graduate.
Rather than relying on trial-and-error, Elion and Hitchings used the differences in biochemistry between normal human cells and pathogens (disease-causing agents) to design drugs that could kill or inhibit the reproduction of particular pathogens without harming the host cells.
Elion's inventions include:
6-mercaptopurine (Purinethol), the first treatment for leukemia.
Azathioprine (Imuran), the first immuno-suppressive agent, used for organ transplants.
Allopurinol (Zyloprim), for gout.
Pyrimethamine (Daraprim), for malaria.
Trimethoprim (Septra), for meningitis, septicemia, and bacterial infections of the urinary and respiratory tracts.
Acyclovir (Zovirax), for viral herpes.
In 1988 Elion received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, together with Hitchings and Sir James Black. Other awards include the National Medal of Science (1991) and the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award (1997). In 1991 she became the first woman to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation, there is a chapter devoted to her.
Gertrude Elion died in North Carolina in 1999, aged 81. She had moved to the Research Triangle in 1970, and for a time served as a research professor at Duke University. She was unmarried.