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Timelines: 1963

Prev : Next The chemical synthesis of insulin

The means for manufacturing a pharmaceutical product?


Panayotis Katsoyannis (right)

American and West German research groups independently report the chemical synthesis of insulin. The American team works in the lab of biochemist Panayotis Katsoyannis at the University of Pittsburgh. The German team is led by Helmut Zahm at Aachen University. Two groups working in tandem at the Institutes of Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry at the Academia Sinica, Shanghai, and the Department of Chemistry at Beijing University later claim priority. 

The chemical synthesis of insulin is a notable scientific achievement. The news media pick up the story and hail the practical medical benefits that may be derived from it. Chemical synthesis suggests a remedy for anticipated insulin shortages due to rapid population growth and the limitations of conventional methods of production. It is not clear, however, that the painstaking process can be accelerated or scaled up. Nearly twenty years later, high-volume production of synthetic human insulin is accomplished by biological rather than chemical means.

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