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Gertrude Elion, Drug Research Pioneer
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Elion laughing and getting a “hug” from a Muppet doll

Elion laughing and getting a “hug” from a Muppet doll

The Work of Gertrude Elion

Elion developed a new way to design drugs. Prior to her work, scientists had discovered new drugs and tested them on various diseases to see what illnesses they could treat. Instead of that traditional trial-and-error method, Elion and her colleague and mentor, George Hitchings, determined how a specific disease worked, then built drugs to fight it.

Their goal was to develop drugs that disabled diseased cells without harming normal ones. They thought that if they could prevent the unwanted cells from replicating, they could stop the spread of the disease.

Elion’s process laid the foundation for modern chemotherapy treatments and led to the development of AZT, the first drug to treat the AIDS virus successfully.

Next: What Inspired Elion to Become a Scientist? ›

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