"On This Day" In Engineering History Blog

"On This Day" In Engineering History

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October 19, 1943 - Fighting More Than Tuberculosis

Posted October 19, 2006 7:00 AM by Steve Melito

On this day in engineering history, a graduate student named Albert Schatz isolated streptomycin, the first antibiotic cure for tuberculosis, an infectious disease which typically afflicts the lungs, but may also affect other organs. Schatz's discovery in the Rutgers University laboratory of professor Selman A. Waksman led to the development of antibiotics which have saved millions of lives.

Streptomycin, the first in a class of drugs called aminoglycosides, is produced by soil bacteria of the genus Streptomyces. It fights tuberculosis by binding to the 23S rRNA molecule of the ribosome, inhibiting protein synthesis and preventing the growth of the polypeptide chain.

Streptomycin is administered by intramuscular injection and often used in combination with isoniazid, ethambutol, and aminosalicylic acid. Although streptomycin can cause dizziness, nausea, and even deafness, the drug remains a front-line treatment against the "white plague." According to some accounts, tuberculosis has afflicted mankind since the days of ancient Egypt and killed more than one billion people during the past two hundred years.

For a time, the fight against tuberculosis was shadowed by a battle between a graduate student and his former mentor. In 1946, Waksman asked Schatz to transfer his royalty rights from the streptomycin patent to the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation. Later, Schatz learned that Waksman had retained a portion of his own streptomycin royalties. Schatz sued Waksman and the Rutgers foundation. Eventually, the parties settled out of court.

Selman A. Waksman received a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1952. Schatz felt blacklisted by the scientific community and struggled to find work in academia. His rapprochement with Rutgers took almost 50 years. On April 28 1994, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of streptomycin, Albert Schatz was awarded the Rutgers medal, the university's highest accolade. Until his death in January 2005, Schatz continued to lobby scientific institutions to include his contributions regarding streptomycin.

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: October 19, 1943 - Fighting More Than Tuberculosis

10/19/2006 10:25 AM

Waksman sounds old school. He seemed to believe that a grad student's research belonged to the professor.

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Join Date: Jul 2006
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#2
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Re: October 19, 1943 - Fighting More Than Tuberculosis

10/20/2006 5:23 AM

'twas ever thus!

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