Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Abundant Penicillin by 1942 - only if Howard Florey didn't come to America ?

When ,in April 1941, Howard Florey learned that his best shot at world acclaim (as the only begetter of systemic penicillin) was at risk because Henry Dawson had got there first, the old claim jumper boot scooted over to America to shake a little dust.

Unfortunately, while in America he met and bonded with an old friend, A Newton Richards, the chief medical advisor (sans MD degree !) to both Merck and the US government's war science research arm , Vannevar Bush's OSRD.

Together the pair agreed that most of the wartime penicillin effort should go into first synthesizing it - rather than merely scaling up existing natural penicillin fermentation technology and getting penicillin to the military and civilian patients dying for lack of it - now.

Richards (who never met a conflict of interest he didn't like) was mindful that Merck's cross harbour rival, Pfizer, was likely to be the big winner if natural fermentation - and not Merck's strength artificial synthesis - was used to produce this priceless new drug.

Left alone, Pfizer (with Henry Dawson's team assisting) was already on the way, during that Fall in 1941 , to producing enough penicillin to get the show on the road.

A pity then that Florey had to spoil the show ...

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