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Hallelujah MomentsTales of Drug Discovery$
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Eugene H. Cordes

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199337149

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199337149.001.0001

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Avermectins: Molecules of Life Battle Parasites

Avermectins: Molecules of Life Battle Parasites

(p.165) 10 Avermectins: Molecules of Life Battle Parasites
Hallelujah Moments

Eugene H. Cordes

Oxford University Press

These are the words of Dr. William C. Campbell, hereinafter known as Bill. Bill was Merck’s leading authority on parasitic diseases. He played the leading role in the discovery of the greatest antiparasitic drugs in history—ivermectin and abamectin. Having said this, and as Bill has pointed out, this drug discovery story, like all of them, was the result of a team effort involving hundreds of people. When you start giving credit by naming scientists who contributed, it is tough to know when to stop. If you try to name them all, you get a telephone book for a small village and you will still miss somebody. The other extreme is to name nobody, but I have already violated that alternative. So I will mention four scientists at Merck who, in addition to Bill, were the authors of the publication in the prestigious journal Science of the article announcing the discovery of ivermectin. They are Mike Fisher, the chemist who led the chemistry effort at Merck focused on the avermectins; Ed Stapley, who led Merck’s natural product screening effort; Georg Albers-Schönberg, who headed the group that elucidated the structure of the avermectins; and Ted Jacob, Merck’s leader of animal drug metabolism. Before getting into the story, a word about names—this time about molecules, not scientists. As I relate in this chapter, avermectins are a small family of related molecules. Ivermectin is a chemically modified derivative of one of the avermectins, and abamectin is one of the avermectins. Bill Campbell is an Irishman and native of Donegal. He took himself to Trinity College in Dublin for his undergraduate work where he did research under the direction of J. Desmond Smyth, a noted parasitologist. Near the end of Bill’s undergraduate days at Trinity College, Dr. Arlie Todd of the University of Wisconsin wrote Smyth to ask whether he had any promising students to recommend for graduate study. Smyth recommended Bill to Todd, along with two others.

Keywords:   Abamectin, Dectomax, Eimeria, Interceptor, Kitasato Institute, Mectizan, Nemadectin, Onchocerciasis, ProHeart, Selamectin, Vermox

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