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Edmund Kornfeld

American chemist

Died when: 93 years 119 days (1119 months)
Star Sign: Pisces


Edmund Kornfeld

Edmund Carl Kornfeld (24 February 1919 – 22 June 2012) was an American organic chemist who devoted his life to the research of new drugs.

His leading discovery, with the help of a team, was an antibiotic that was later named vancomycin.Kornfeld received his PhD in chemistry from Harvard in 1944 and subsequently joined Eli Lilly Company, in Indianapolis, Ind., where most of his discoveries took place.

In 1953, Kornfeld and his team discovered a microbe, Streptomyces orientalis, which was found in soil samples from Borneo.This microbe produced a unique compound which had the remarkable property of killing all staphylococcal bacteria, including the penicillin-resistant strains.

The drug’s ability to inhibit staphylococci was stable during early assays, suggesting that it might be clinically useful for a long period.

One of the most difficult tasks that Kornfeld and his team faced was purifying the new compound.The purification method employed during that time utilised picric acid - a potentially explosive chemical; because of this an alternate process was developed.

However, this new method yielded material with a purity of only 82% and when solubilized, produced a brown liquid aptly termed “Mississippi mud”.

However, due to the need for an alternative to penicillin in resistant bacterial infections, the initial preparations were considered safe enough for use in humans.

The first human trial was in 1950.The drug was given to a patient who had developed a severe infection on his foot after surgery which was unresponsive to multiple antibiotics.

The surgical staff recommended amputation or the usage of the new antibiotic.His answer was ‘ Anything that might save my foot’.

Due to the spread of the bacteria, a high dosage the antibiotic of 05865 was recommended, 100 mg every eight hours, over five days.

After the first day, the heat was decreasing, his white cell count was dropping and the exudate of his wound was less.

During the next seven days, the staphylococci disappeared from the wound, and his foot was free from any sign of infection.

Two months later he left the hospital with an intact foot.The new antibiotic was named vancomycin, from the term "vanquish" and was approved by the U.S.

Food and Drug Administration in 1958.

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