Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Primitive Penicillin For Everyone, Now !"

By 1945, this was Henry Dawson's winning approach in the battle over what direction wartime penicillin should take.

Of course, that year the Swedes chose to give their Nobel Prize to the losing side in this debate over penicillin's course, rewarding it to losers Alexander Fleming and Howard Florey.

Label the losers' approach as "Synthetic Penicillin For Some, Someday."

On October 16th 1940, Dawson considered primitive penicillin (concentrated, semi-purified excretions from the tiny penicillium) fully ready for primetime.

Fully ready to inject - now ! - into dying patients, civilian or serviceman, of all races, genders and incomes, in an effort to save their life when nothing else worked.

Good enough to put into unlimited mass production - by government owned plants if need be.

By contrast, his opponents in the medical establishments of Britain and America - people like Fleming and Florey and their warm friends at Vannevar's OSRD and at Merck - didn't want penicillin to go into (limited) mass production until it had been synthesized  by big Pharma, if and when that ever came about.

(It never has been totally synthesized commercially and we still have Dawson's primitive penicillium making the base penicillin that lies behind all our best antibiotics to this day.)

Even if it was synthesized to produce a cheap and abundant pure penicillin, the drug was still to be held back, for use as a secret weapon of war, rather than to be used among the general soldier and civilian population, saving lives.

Penicillin was intended to finally be introduced only on D-Day, to the total surprise of the Germans.

All to return lightly wounded Allied combat troops back into the line of fire far faster than what the Germans could for their lightly wounded with only Sulfa drugs at their command, giving the Allies a little extra break at the odds.

If I was telling this tale to daycare kids like Sam, I say it was a argument between giving small penicillin to small people versus giving Big penicillin to Big people....

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