Wonder Drug Wunderkind

Yesterday would have been the 90th birthday of Swiss-born Italian pharmacologist Daniel Bovet, whose discoveries helped give rise to the modern pharmaceutical industry. As a young researcher in the 1930s, Bovet identified sulfanilamide as the active agent in Prontosil--a dye that combated streptococcal infections--and subsequently launched the large-scale production of the first sulfa antibiotics, or "wonder drugs."

In the early 1940s, Bovet synthesized the first antihistamines used in modern medicine. And after studying the muscle-relaxant properties of curare, a poison used by certain South American Indians on their arrows, he designed synthetic versions for use in surgery. For these advances, Bovet won the 1957 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. In addition, Bovet believed that the key to treating mental illness lay in chemistry, and he contributed basic research in neuropharmacology. He died in 1992.

[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]

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