Issue Date: September 8, 2008
"PFIZER'S PENICILLIN Landmark," gives the impression that the development of penicillin took a giant leap from its discovery by Alexander Fleming in 1928 to its mass production by Pfizer beginning in 1944, without mention of any of the crucial intermediate steps (C&EN, July 14, page 46).
In 1939, Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, and others at Oxford University began their groundbreaking work on how to improve the production of penicillin, with advice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They also were the first to demonstrate its in vivo antimicrobial activity. Florey and Chain shared with Fleming the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945. Beginning in 1942, Merck & Co. was first in producing sufficient penicillin to treat patients.
Anthony B. Mauger
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