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Fleming, Chain, and Florey

Penicillin revived

Biochemist and German émigré Ernst Chain discovers the work of Alexander Fleming while working in the lab of pathologist Howard Florey at Oxford University. Chain and Florey begin to explore the medicinal properties of Penicillium chrysogenum. They observe the remarkable action of the mold against bacterial infections, first in mice, and then in human beings. After this clinical success, Florey approaches drug makers in the U.K. about developing and manufacturing a medicine. It is by now 1940, however, and factories in the U.K. are too strapped by the war effort to allocate resources for the project. Florey looks next to the U.S. He is brought across the Atlantic by the Rockefeller Foundation to meet with Dr. Charles Thorn, the chief mycologist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and officials at the U.S. Office of Scientific Research. The government agents are impressed by Florey’s evidence, and a joint private and public R&D effort is hastily organized to manufacture a drug. By the end of the war, mass production of penicillin is in full swing. For their roles in producing the miracle cure, Florey, Chain, and Fleming are awarded Nobel Prizes in Medicine in 1945.

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