Great Drugs of the 20th Century – Nystatin – 1954.


Fungal or mold infection can be almost impossible to treat and sometimes fatal.Elizabeth_Lee_Hazen_Rachel_Fuller_Brown_1950s
In the 1950’s, microbiologist Elizabeth Lee Hazen, at the New York State Department of Health, found a soil bacterium, Streptomyces noursei with antifungal properties. The story goes that Lazen discovered this bacterium in her friend’s farm, and so she named it after the farm owner, William Nourse.

Her colleague, Rachel Fuller Brown, helped her characterize compounds isolated from the bacterium. Brown was in Albany and Hazen in New York. So they exchanged samples and results via the US Mail!

US Mail finally delivered the first antifungal. Hazen and Brown called it Nystatin after the New York State Department of Health.

Introduced in 1954 and patented by Hazen and Brown in 1957, Nystatin cured many disfiguring and disabling fungal infections.  Nystatin kills fungi by creating pores in their cell membranes through which essential electrolytes leak out. It’s still in use today and is even used to restore works of art damaged by mold.

Hazen and Brown set up the non-profit Research Corporation with Nystatin royalties – about 13 million dollars.  How’s that for Woman Power?

To be continued …


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