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Biological Chemistry

Steroids At Bayer Schering

April 11, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 15

The remark by Bayer Schering Pharma’s Bernd Ehrke that “we have been in the steroid business for more than 
40 years” concerns only post-WWII activities and omits important earlier work (C&EN, Jan. 31, page 21). A 1947 post-WWII U.S. investigation of Schering’s prewar and wartime commercial development and manufacture of synthetic 
steroid hormones is fully described in F.I.A.T. Report 996. I carefully reviewed this document during my synthesis of aldosterone at Smith Kline & French (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja01500a081).

Steroid sex hormone research at 
Schering Berlin was initiated in 1923 by the then-head of research, Walter Schoeller. It involved the formation in 1928 of a remarkable academic-industrial team (arbeitsgemeinschaft) consisting of the 25-year-old chemist Adolf Butenandt at Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Biochemie (Berlin) and a group of Schering scientists. The latter was responsible for the production and bioassay of crude syrups by concentration of thousands of liters of urine from human males, pregnant women, pregnant mares, and animal corpus luteum extracts.

Butenandt (Nobel Prize, 1939) isolated 15 mg of androsterone, the first crystal­line androgen, from a syrup derived 
from 15,000 L of human male urine (1931). Crystalline estrone (1929) and crystalline progesterone (1934) were likewise 
obtained by him from analogous 
preparations.By 1938, Schering was already synthesizing and commercializing estradiol benzoate (Progynon B), progesterone (Proluton), and testosterone propionate (Testoviron) in kilogram amounts, but by 1945 production had been discontinued owing to WWII destruction.

Manfred E. Wolff
Laguna Beach, Calif.



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