Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer The mass manufacture of penicillin during World War II stimulated urgent interest in other medicinally important" /> Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer The mass manufacture of penicillin during World War II stimulated urgent interest in other medicinally important" />
Advertisement
RayBiotech
RayBiotech

The discovery of streptomycin

Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer" />Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer The mass manufacture of penicillin during World War II stimulated urgent interest in other medicinally important

By | August 1, 2007

<figcaption>Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer</figcaption>
Selman Waksman's exact replica of his notes on experiments, showing the antagonistic properties of streptomycin against microorganisms, (April 1943) Credit: Courtesy of Terry Sharrer

The mass manufacture of penicillin during World War II stimulated urgent interest in other medicinally important soil microorganisms. Selman Waksman, chair of microbiology at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (Rutgers University) in the 1940s, had investigated the mycelial bacteria Actinomycetes since World War I, and had screened for several species that produced metabolites that inhibited other microbes.

Seen here in Waksman's notes are his April 1943 experiments with nutrient formulas for growing streptomycin-producing cultures. By fall 1943, Waksman had his lab group concentrating on the Actinomycetes when William Feldman and Corwin Hinshaw, visiting from the Mayo Clinic, presented a clinical trial opportunity for an anti-tuberculosis drug. Waksman assigned preparation for that task to his graduate students, chiefly Albert Schatz. Schatz soon isolated streptomycin, an aminoglycoside that inhibits protein synthesis, and tested it on the pathogen. 1 Feldman and Hinshaw carried out animal testing and then treated "Patricia T." between November 1944 and February 1945. She was streptomycin's first success against TB. 2

<figcaption>Selmean Waksman (1888-1973) and Albert Schatz (1920-2005), codiscoverers of streptomycin Credit: © Smithsonian Institution</figcaption>
Selmean Waksman (1888-1973) and Albert Schatz (1920-2005), codiscoverers of streptomycin Credit: © Smithsonian Institution

The US Patent Office issued a patent (No. 2,449,866; Sept. 21, 1948) to Waksman and Schatz for "streptomycin and process of preparation," which they assigned to the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation. Commercial development, however, created a rift between the inventors over royalty shares and, more vigorously, over who really deserved the greater credit for discovering streptomycin's importance.

Schatz sued Waksman and Rutgers to obtain a royalty-sharing agreement (10% to Waksman, 3% to Schatz, 7% to others involved in the discovery, and 80% to Rutgers). Waksman's solo 1952 Nobel Prize grieved Schatz to his death in 2005, though Rutgers awarded him its highest honor in 1994 as codiscoverer of streptomycin. Eventually, the Actinomycetes proved to be the most abundant source of naturally occurring antibiotics.

References

1. A. Schatz et al., "Streptomycin, a substance exhibiting antibiotic activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria," Proc Exp Biol Med , 55:66-9, 1944. 2. K.H. Pfuetze et al., "The first clinical trial of streptomycin in human tuberculosis." Am Rev Tuberc , 71:752-4, 1955. [PUBMED]
Advertisement

Comments

Avatar of: David L.  Weisman

David L. Weisman

Posts: 1

August 31, 2007

Not long after the royalty sharing agreement for streptomycin was signed, I was talking to a psychologist relative of Albert Schatz who gave me her side of the story as an example of how ego driven prcoesses have a place in scientific discoveries and rewards:\n\nWaksman assigned some half dozen masters candidates to do the grunt work of finding strains of the earth grubbing microorganisms whose excretions would work against the bacillis.Schatz succeeded, the other masters candidates didn't. Nevertheless, all of them wrote up their work and were awarded Masters degrees. At that time Rutgers required that a Master's thesis contain signs of independent creative work -- or something to that effect..\nWaksman in his pursuit of the Nobel,wanted to portray Schatz as merely one of the half dozen grunt workers but he and his lawyers had to contend with the fact that he had signed off their masters theses as something above the level of grunt work. So he allowed ALL those masters degree awardees to share EQUALLY in the royalties, but at a low rate than his..\nIt would seem that some people on the East Coast may be in a better poisition to give circulation to the facts.\nSchatz may go down in History as one of those like Robert Alpher, Joyce Bell, Rose Franklin, etc who deserved a Nobel except that fates and ego determined otherwise

August 31, 2007

Students who get into research, love research and do whatever it takes to continue in research. I know of friends who are post docs for 8th year running and know friends who were post docs for their life. In academia, one encounters a lot of ego than any where else. I am sure there were and there are several more Schatz's in universities hidden behind lab equipment and computers working hard and their professors are busy getting awards. I myself was a post doc for six years and my advice is - If you don't have a godfather in academia, it is time to move out of academia.
Avatar of: xyz

xyz

Posts: 2

September 2, 2007

Slavery Indeed!\n\nI completely agree with Krishnakumar. According to my assessment Schatz was one of the lucky few, who did not win the noble but, was atleast recognized for his contribution. I can cite innumerable examples of poor, hapless postdocs (especially form abroad and more specifically from Asia), who do all the work for several years and then are stripped off all recognition and authorship. It is time something legal is done against the conceited, pompous and self-centered professors, who get tax payers money in the form of grants and have no scruples about exploiting cheap labor particularly from abroad. With their actions often condoned and even applauded by the Universities in USA and Canada.\n\nI would advise all postdocs to quit academia ASAP and stop giving their sweat and intellect to build someone else's career. \n \n

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Advertisement
Mettler Toledo
BD Biosciences
BD Biosciences