Yellapragada Subbarao

Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao (1895-1948) was from the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. With a LMS Certificate from the Madras Medical College, he went to the US and got a diploma from the Harvard Medical School.

He is considered one of the brightest sons of mother India but also one of the most unfairly treated scientists. While working with Cyrus Fiske at the Harvard Medical School as a junior faculty member, he developed a method for the estimation of phosphorus in the body fluids and tissues. He discovered the role of Phosphocreatine and Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) in muscular activity, and developed a method to synthesize Folic Acid (Vitamin B9).

Its worth note that the first anticancer drug Methotrexate and the anthelmintic drug Diethylcarbamazine (which was later recommended by WHO for mass scale use for the clinical management of filaria) were discovered by Subbarao. His junior Benjamin Duggar discovered the first tetracycline Aureomycin working under him. But he did not enjoy the credit and recognition that he deserved.

His colleague, George Hitchings, who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Gertrude Elion, 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.

In 1950, another scientist Doron K. Antrim observed, “You’ve probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao. Yet because he lived you may be alive and are well today. Because he lived you may live longer.” A new fungus Subbaromyces splendens was named in his honour by Cyanamid, an American chemical manufacturing firm.