Friday, November 30, 2012

The mercky history of pre-war synthetic B1 ... and synthetic penicillin

What if Merck had quickly synthesized penicillin early in 1939, when it first started looking at the substance ? Remember this was before Europe was at war - let alone America, so Merck's normal peacetime behavior would have applied.

Romney economics in other words - not for nothing was the owner George W Merck a part time company owner and a full time back room Republican activist.

His behavior around thiamine is instructive on how he would have acted with synthetic penicillin.

 Thiamine is also called vitamin B1 and it prevents beriberi-like disease (like pellagra) among poor people forced to eat mostly over-refined grains.

It is the same life-giving stuff that millers so carefully remove from flour and bread and rice.

But now they were willing to put back in again - in a synthetic form - but at a price high enough to ensure few of the Great Depression's hungry could actually afford its benefits.

An altruistic chemist named Robert R Williams had searched for and invented a cheap way to create thiamine in the lab - he had then given the  resulting patent to the non-profit Research Corporation and hoped to see it got to supplementing the poor diets of the poor - by going into flour and bread at no charge.

But Merck had partially funded his research so it to had a say in how it would be used and sold.

Williams , son of Baptist ministers and a telephone company scientist in his day job, had long hoped to end the many nutrition-related deaths he saw caused by modern milling practises that only gave empty calories.

He did his work, much of it, in his garage, using his wife's washing machine as a centrifuge --- but Merck had helped with money and testing equipment, as had Martin Henry Dawson's university, Columbia.

Aaron Bobrow-Srain, consulting Williams' diaries from that period (found in the archive of Williams' papers), discovered that Merck (and General Mills) wanted an exclusive license if they were to mass produce and use synthetic B1 in bread .

They would charge a premium price and thus ensure it would only go to the bread eaten by the well to do - who hardly needed diet supplements to prevent the diseases more found commonly among poor people like southern share-croppers !

It took the war and a government order for the price of B1 to drop so that all bread got its life-saving qualities.

During the war, Merck made lots of B1, but at less per unit profit, but with a much greater volume they didn't exactly starve --- so busy in fact that they hardly had any time to make public domain natural penicillin.

First synthesize penicillin , then perfect it and patent it  with hopes to make tons of money on it : that would  enough to get George W Merck excited .

Too bad that only the well-to-do dying from infections would be able to afford the resulting perfectly synthesized penicillin ...

World War Two as an "Auto Immune" disease ...

Two examples readily at hand can give an 21st century insight into the faith-based/man-oriented science of 20th century Modernity.

Gently nurturing of natural penicillium plants or brute force chemical synthesis : wartime penicillin definitely had "gender issues"

Recollect early wartime pictures of  clearly nubile young women holding milk bottles of live-giving penicillin to their chests.

Impure natural penicillin, atomic steam engines versus pure synthetic penicillin and atomic bombs

Was Howard Florey the Harold Urey of wartime penicillin - was Harold Urey the Howard Florey of  wartime atomic energy ?

Why urban solutions to rural problems delayed life-saving penicillin for 15 wasted years ...

It is a lie to say that natural penicillin is highly unstable or filled with deadly impurities. It is true however that Fleming's original strain of penicillium yielded so little penicillin that the resulting un-concentrated penicillin filtrate was too weak to cure a patient when given by IV, without literally 'watering' the patient to death in the process.

A philosopher could have brought us life-saving penicillin years earlier than ten thousand chemists did

The claim that the only solution to penicillin's tiny yield, instability and impurities was to synthesize it sounded so good back in the 1930s and early 1940s - to scientists.

Would penicillin have been available for patients in 1930, if Fleming had produced his '29 paper - and then died ?

If only pneumonia had killed Alec, not John....
Imagine - if you will - that you're at a medical meeting - one of hundreds and hundreds that Alexander Fleming routinely attended between the Fall of 1928 and the Fall of 1942 and you happen to overhear Fleming regaling a small audience in the corridor about his 'wonderful' penicillin.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Penicillin, "the" substance produced penicillium molds"

Penicillin was not doing anything useful throughout the 1930s ( like being injected into dying patients), but it was not exactly unknown in many areas of science : biochemistry, botany and mycology, general medicine, microbiology , pharmaceuticals.

I have sufficient articles and references from that time period to notice a very interesting pattern, I believe, in terminology.

"Goaty Penicillin" : how Big Science contaminated natural penicillin at least as much as it 'purified' it

GOATY penicillin
Is it actually a legal requirement that academic historians write peans to Van Bush, the OSRD and Big Science in World War II , before they get a sizeable grant ?

One might think so.

Dawson long been obsessed with SBE ? Show me ! 'Cause I'm from Missouri ...

Dawson & SBE ?! well I'm from MISSOURI
Even Gladys Hobby says so.

And God Knows, she should know almost better than anyone but Dawson himself.

Almost 15 years after Penicillin discovered, most of the world's serious penicillin cases had been treated by one doctor : Martin Henry Dawson

1943 Annual Report, Columbia University
In the Spring of 1943, Columbia University released its Annual Report and mentions , in passing, that Dr MH Dawson had supervised the treatment of 65 serious cases with penicillin for the National Research Council.

(Generally Columbia's lengthy wartime annual reports successfully managed to avoid talking about penicillin - a sure sign that it was ignored by academic science elsewhere as well throughout the war.)

If we can take "serious" to mean "treated systemically" , that probably means that the largest percentage of the world's systemic penicillin cases up to that point in time had been done by Dr Dawson alone !

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Parke-Davis could have made a fortune in 1929 from the ultimate in generic drugs : natural penicillin

Parke-Davis, as seen from my folks' homes
A medication made by some natural being out in Nature is the 'ultimate generic drug'  ---- being PD (Public Domain) from its birth, which possibly occurred hundreds of millions of years before Humanity first noticed it.

Penicillin - in theory - is one such 'ultimate generic drug' , but was it in fact, in 1929 ?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Penicillin Diplomacy DOESN'T come to Franco's Spain

Falangist denied penicillin August '44
Allied post-1943 "Penicillin Diplomacy" was not exactly perfectly aligned with the humanitarian values of Dr Martin Henry Dawson.

He felt his fellow doctors and scientists should buck down and make lots of his "imperfect but good enough" natural penicillin and give it out freely to all who are dying of diseases it could treat.

Instead they were standing around, as at a railway siding outside Auschwitz with jack boots and whip , dividing seriously ill humanity into two lines : you live/ you die.

Penicillin Diplomacy comes to Cuba November 12 1943

Batista wooed by PENICILLIN
An American warplane flies south throughout the night in November 1943, all in an effort to deliver scarce American government penicillin to save the life of a small son of Cuban lawyer Angel Diaz Soto.

The effort is widely reported in all the semi-official American media such the New York Times, media that were read all around the world by government elites seeking to discern the attitudes of the largest member of the rising Allied powers of World War Two.

This particular tea leaf wasn't hard to read : penicillin was no longer to be a secret weapon of war, just for American soldiers ; but now was to be an instrument of peace , open to all the nations of the world willing to take up the yoke of defeating the evil Nazis.

HARRY LIME : from war hero to infamous cinematic villain

Just one of HARRY LIME's "dots"
(See note below added, Dec 4 2012)

It is easy to imagine our Harry (Lime) in July 1943, just back from Hamburg as an Allied bomber pilot dropping fire bombs on Axis children, mere "dots", thousands of feet below him : a war hero, in other words.

Just as easy as imagining our Harry in 1949 Vienna, still a member of an Allied nation and still killing Axis children, only this time with watered-down penicillin.

But something has clearly changed : because now he is regarded as a a villain, in fact one of cinema's all time worst villains.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meet the DOCTOR MOM who brought us wartime penicillin when it could do us some good, not 5 years after the war ended

Her name is Mary Louise (Pelliter Becker) Smith,  but she was much better know as Mrs Mae Smith or Mrs John L Smith.

Florey's first IMPURE penicillin injections were definitely forced upon him, as a PLAN B sop

When Howard Florey at Oxford University had decided in early 1938 that he would investigate the theoretical aspects of  antibiotic antagonisms, he said he would not inject them to test for their therapeutic possibilities until they were pure : crystalline pure.

Florey & Dawson's argument over wartime penicillin : Analogue or Parable?

Sharp eyed grammar experts will quickly argue that there is no real difference between analogue and parable :  they are both forms of analogy and denote the same basic things. But even they will admit, their connotations are quite different.

When it comes to drugs like penicillin, an analogue (aka the so called "me too" drugs) are knockoffs of another drug, often one produced by nature and hence in the public domain. They differ just enough from the original to be deemed patentable : profitably patentable. All easily understood.

But penicillin as a parable - like Jesus's parables, for Christ's Sake ! - how on Earth is that possible ?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wartime penicillin : patient-oriented or patent-oriented ?

MH Dawson
Martin Henry Dawson was Systemic Penicillin's earliest and biggest true believer. He ardently and publicly advocated producing 'second rate' penicillin for 'second rate' patients.

He didn't want to wait till systemic penicillin had been perfected, purified, synthesized, analyzed, patented, censored and marketed. Dr Dawson didn't want to wait till the war was long over before lives - on the battlefield and off - could start being saved. His only invention was moral : giving up his own life to fight for  patient-oriented, humanitarian, wartime penicillin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Dawson Does a Banting" : the impolite Canadian doctors who fought , and I do mean FOUGHT, to bring us life-saving penicillin and insulin

Canadians have a reputation for being excessive polite and for not being aggressive , pushing, forward, loud and emotional.

And the other hand.

There is the old joke about "going to a peaceful American boxing match and suddenly a Canadian hockey game broke out...."

Duncan BC's forgotten wartime PENICILLIN pioneer, Donald MacRae

Duncan's Donald MacRae
The June 29th 1945 issue of the Canadian Army wartime newspaper, The Maple Leaf, records a Vancouver interview with a medic , Private Donald MacRae of Duncan BC , recounting his 1943 Italian experience making battlefield penicillin and saving lives.

It was just something humanitarians of all nations were required to do, in the decade and a half before Big Pharma was forced by Doctor Mom to finally start making commercial penicillin.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

By 1945, Martin Henry Dawson's 1940 war aim had become OUR war aim too

Baby, dank Harry Lime, werden nicht neeeding Teddy

In September 1940 , at the height of the Battle of Britain, war hero Martin Henry Dawson decided against rejoining the Canadian Army to help fight Hitler.

He would fight Hitler instead by saving the lives of the very people that Hitler (and a lot of Dawson's medical colleagues) judged to be "lives unworthy of life" --- particularly in wartime.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

For Howard Florey's mausoleum of an institute, penicillin's therapeutic value was incidental to putting paying bums on seats

Howard Florey's discovery that impure natural penicillin could cure experimentally induced infections in mice was incidental to his number one concern : getting enough paying guests in his mausoleum of an institute, to pay its annual heating bills.

How doctors rationalize "uncomfortable" successes : natural penicillin and others

Vaccines, Salvarsan, natural penicillin
Obviously, injecting live germs into someone's bloodstream can be potentially very dangerous.

Medicine's all dominant "anthropocentricity", before the unexpected triumph of NATURAL penicillin

The world's best loved, most important medication lay "hidden in plain sight" for 15 wasted years because of medicine's unconscious anthropocentric biases.

Only when Dr Martin Henry Dawson came upon slime-produced penicillin fresh from his explorations of "The Triumphs of the Weak" among oral commensal Strep bacteria, did a doctor see no problems of using impure natural products of a weak species (fungus) in the blood stream of that most superior species known as (Man).

Friday, November 16, 2012

1945 : it was the best of times and the worst of times for the Modern Age

In 1945, the Allied forces of Modernity were celebrated by contemporary (1945) academic opinion for turning back the anti modern efforts of the Nazis and the Axis.

But today's academic opinion also credits 1945 as the beginning of the new  Post Modern Age ( in effect signalling the start of the decline of Modernity.)

Seventy Five years later, has Death and Il-Health finally allowed a post-Modernist look at WWII to receive a fair hearing ?

Does Hamburg '43 still sizzle ?
All the grownup men who made the decisions to send tens of thousands of teenage boys off to die on German city bombing runs have long since gone to their rewards.

For Alexander Fleming's business firm, discovery of penicillin was incidental, as well as accidental

Penicillin the life-saving antibiotic ( Penicillin-the-systemic) was more of a threat than an opportunity to Alexander Fleming's main activity, which was making money from dodgy vaccines not making new science , which is why he always preferred to promote penicillin (weakly) as an antiseptic and (strongly) as an aid to vaccine production.

Martin Henry Dawson vs the American Red Cross 1940 on mixing blood of blacks , whites and slime

Heroes ????
The American Red Cross began WWII on the side of Hitler, banning the mixing of Negro blood with that of the pure white (Ayran) race when it came to blood transfusions, just as Hitler also opposed the mixing of Jewish and Ayran blood in German blood transfusions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Skygods vs Earthlings: a post-Modernist history of WWII

Modernity finally gets its own WAR

The historians of 75 years ago could only see the things that made the leading warring nations different but with the passage of time and today's new era, younger historians are beginning to see the thing that all the leading warring nations held in common: Modernity.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

School Days Over, come on then Pen

School Days Over, Come on Then PEN
In September 1940 , Penicillin was just over 12 years old and yet had never gone to real work. Henry Dawson thought that real work for Pen was very much overdue, and well, it was probably Ewan MacColl who sang it best in one of his Radio Ballads :

"Time you were putting your work boots on, it's time to go, time you were working down below; Time you  were on your way, time you were learning a lifesaver's job and earning a lifesaver's pay..."

The MORAL invention of impure-systemic antibiotics by Martin Henry Dawson

When asked, in strictest confidence by a worried Howard Florey, "what's this guy Dawson really like ?" , establishment bacteriologist Stanhope Bayne-Jones said  'he is honest - but much too enthusiastic at times'.

Monday, November 12, 2012

1940 : Henry Dawson invents antibiotics - without ever quite realizing it !

Dr Martin Henry Dawson knew (from the published medical literature of Alexander Fleming) he was not the first person to treat a person clinically with penicillin, so he modestly limited himself to saying only that he was the first person in America to do so.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

PRODUCTION scientists pro Romney and Denial ; IMPACT scientists pro Obama and climate change reality ?

undergrad scientists DENY climate change, vote Romney
The latest Washington Post/ABC TV poll has a few figures you probably hadn't seen in this polled-to-death election season : the difference in GOP/DEMOCRAT support between people with undergraduate and post graduate degrees : undergrads pro Romney, post-grads pro Obama.

Watching the Deniers lose the election over Climate Change is Grim : Ryan Grim, the blogger who brought them down

KOCH BROS suffer a GRIM fate
Out here in rural Nova Scotia, people have a particularly vivid way of saying their chances are toast : they are "screwed : screwed and bored". That is what the feckless Democrats and Obama would have been, if not for a relatively obscure blogger named Ryan Grim.

VWB : "Voting While Black" : the WHITE PROTESTANT drive to steal elections they can no longer win legally

The 2012 election in America was probably decided a few years ago, well before this year's $6 billion in ads and hoopla, when Republicans looked at new demographic figures and decided that the long-assured White Protestant voting majority, a fact for over 400 years, was toast.