Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dawson, Florey and the multiple suppliers

Dawson first turned down Pfizer and then a month later accepted their offer of penicillin extracts, at the same time his co-worker Meyer was working with a potential competitor of Pfizer called Schering and Co, while at same time  Dawson, Meyer, Hobby and Chaffee were producing their very own penicillin !

This was not unique.

Florey produced his own penicillin and was willing to ask for penicillin from any commercial firm and got commercial supllies from at least Merck, ICI and Kimball and Bishops, the latter two on a regular basis.

Why ?

And how were conflict of interests avoided?

I believe none of the commercial firms had a problem if a doctor wished to stick their penicillin (and that of all their competitors,) into patients.

 Even if the doctor(s) first concentrated the commercial liquid
extracts up to a minimal level necessary for therapy - say to a dried state of 30-50 units per mg.

None of this would affect the commercial interests of the firms.

But it would be unfair if a doctor used commercial extracts to improve extraction processes or to do chemical synthesis work on the firms' offerings.

The firms were spending lots of money on these sorts of activities and hoped to eventually profit from it.

They won't want the doctor get to the patent office first or pass on the information on to their favorite commercial firm.

So Dawson, who cared not for the chemical synthesis of penicillin, could treat patients with Pfizer penicillin, while Meyer the chemist used his own penicillin or that of Schering to do chemical studies.

Everybody happy.

Florey did likewise - using mostly ICI penicillin on his famous second series of treatments of patients but not using any of it for chemical studies, while his own team's penicillin mostly went to the team chemists to be destroyed in chemical studies.

It hardly jibs with the heroic image of either group now does it?

I can only say that very quickly, Meyer dropped synthesis studies and shifted to chemically altering penicillin into an ester so it worked better (ie worked slooooower) inside patients.

Morally, it is hard to fault this sort of chemical work.

Oxford claimed (ala LADs' PEN) that it produced 500 litres of penicillin a week between the Fall of 1940 till May 1944.

That is 400 million units of useful, injectable penicillin, in Duhig Units.
J V (James Vincent)  DUHIG
I feel sure than Duhig's first reaction would be the same as mine: "Bull feathers".

I bet a check of the published records will show that only 4 million units of Oxford-created penicillin ended up being used for patients in that period.

(To keep things in perspective, in 2010, 4 million units - 4 MegaUnits - is what you might receive as a daily dose, for an average serious infection. But in 1942, it should be enough to treat 40 patients with life-threatening illnesses.)

Gladys Hobby, quoting a ICI report on Oxford's efforts, says in 1941 they were producing 2 grams a week at 16-32 units a mg, ie 15,000 to 30,000 units a week or a maximum of 1 to 2 million units a penicillin a year at the outside best.

I have seen an estimated figure of 13 million units produced in total between 1938 till 1944, coming - it seems - from Norman Heatley, and that seems to match this report fairly well.

Trevor I Williams, in probably the best single book on the Oxford team ,"HOWARD FLOREY", says that even in 1942, half of the final Oxford penicillin went to the chemists.

I believe all, or almost all, went to the chemists from 1943 onwards.

Doctor Mom has a right to be skeptical about the Lads....

still in widow's weeds in 1946, at a film industry meeting

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