“Poverty, Metric failed, Odd Jobs!!! These are the trademarks of a Genius.” Just to draw your attention to this great son of India who fled to USA instead of Benaras to sell Bananas. He is our Subba Rao. He is known as the “MAN OF MIRACLE DRUGS.”
His awards: a fungus is named after him “Subbaromyces splendens” and a commemorative stamp by the Govt. of India.
His achievements are best summed up by the following: “You've probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada SubbaRow,Yet because he lived you may be well and alive today; Because he lived you may live longer"-- Doron K. Antrim, American author(1950). The 'New York Herald Tribune', in a tribute, called him "one of the most eminent medical minds of the century".
He rose from the position of cleaning Bed Pans and toilets of patients at Harvard to the Director of Research, Lederle Laboratories,NY and invented several important medicines!! His work is the back bone of Medical Biochemistry. The wonder is, even he did not know that his drugs will have such a huge impact.
Some of his major discoveries were:
1) FOLIC ACID:(1945): A very essential vitamin for the development of growing cells, Blood and Brain, without which even B-complex cannot function properly. It is the only Vitamin that prevents Birth defects and currently recommended regularly for pregnant women. Also protects against heart disease!!
2)METHOTREXATE:(1948) It is the underlying drug in many Cancer treatments, is a derivative of Aminopterin which was isolated by subba rao as anti folic acid substance.
3) HETRAZAN:(1947) The medicine for Filariasis, without which south east asians would be walking with elephant legs!!
4) TETRACYCLINES:(1945) these are broad spectrum antibiotics effective against most pathogens. Subba rao isolated Aureomycin, the first ever tetracycline molecule and paved the way for modern tetracyclines. These helped to contain and eradicate the Plaque epidemic in India (1994).
5) ATP:(1929) this molecule is the fundamental source of energy to life. If something is alive, it is because ATP is being burned.
But none of these are recognized ! A nobel laureate and his colleague George Hitchings who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine said: "Some of the nucleotides isolated by Subbarao had to be rediscovered years later by other workers because Fiske, apparently out of jealousy, did not let Subbarao's contributions see the light of the day".
Subba Row was born on January 12, 1895 in Bhimavaram in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in a poor Brahmin family. SubbaRow's family had to pass through long years of poverty. He attended the Taylor High School at Narsapuram. In early years his performance at school education was far from satisfactory.
Often he would plan to run away from home. In fact once he decided to shift to Varanasi where he thought he would make lakhs of rupees just by selling bananas to the pilgrims but he was intercepted and was brought back. From Taylor High School SubbaRow was shifted to Viresalingam Theistic School at Rajahmundhry but here again he failed and could eventually matriculate 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 married later. Following Gandhiji's call he decided to boycott British-made goods. He started wearing surgical gowns made of khaddar which incurred the displeasure of his surgery professor. Though he did not attend classes regularly, in his final examination, he did well in all the papers except that of surgery and consequently he was awarded the lesser L.M.S. certificate instead of the M.B.B.S. degree. He neither took up the examination again to attain the M.B.B.S. degree, nor did he start medical practice.
In 1921 he got admission to the postgraduate course in Tropical Medicine of the Harvard School of Medicine. The major hurdle was to collect money for the trip. But then his brother Purushottam died after suffering from tropical sprue, a vitamin deficiency disease. After eight days of Purushottam's death Subba Row's younger brother Krishnamurti also died in Eluru of a stomach ailment. SubbaRow had to abandone his plans of going to America. He tried to enter the Madras Medical Service without success. He then took up the job as Lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology at Dr. Lakshmi Pathi's Madras Ayurvedic College--one of the earliest attempts in India at putting Ayurveda on a modern footing to meet the challenge of western Medicine". The College traced its origin to a school started by the trustees of Chennapuri Kanyaka Parmeswari Devasthanam for training vaidyas. He realised that the conditions at the college and also the objectives of its founder were not conducive to true research in Ayurveda.
In1923, he got a cable from School of Tropical Medicine at Harvard University "You will be admitted in September. No Scholarship." So with Rs. 2500 raised by his father-in-law, Subba Row left for America on the ship S. S. Khagar. SubbaRow reached Boston on the night of October 26, 1923, and his real struggle started.Dr. Strong(Dean) came in his rescue. He offered SubbaRow some money so that he could register and meet other immediate expenses. Even with Dr. Strong's support SubbaRow could not get any fellowship. Moreover his medical degree was not enough for getting internship appointment in Boston Hospitals. He took up a job of night porter in the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. His monthly salary was US $ 50. He had to work for three hours in the night and his task involved washing urinals and bedpans of patients.
Subba Row was awarded the Diploma of the Harvard University School of Tropical Medicine on June1,1924. After completing the Diploma Subba Row became interested in biochemistry and started working with Cyrus Hartwell Fiske. He got his Ph.D. degree in 1930 and a junior faculty position. SubbaRow moved to Lederle Laboratories (now, Wyeth Labs),Pearl River,NY in 1940 where he Directed research. Subbarao remained an alien without a green card all his life, he lived and died(Aug 9,1948) an Indian, even though he led some of World War II's medical research.
Credit should go to sri S.P.K. Gupta who can be seen at major conferences telling people about Subba Row, to Mahanti and several directors of CCMB,ICMR and CSIR. Ref: http://www.ysubbarow.com/