Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Rachel Fuller Brown
antifungal drug Nystatin
One of the most famous tales in the
history of American medical science is the long-distance collaboration
Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown, who developed and
patented a wonder drug of the 20th century: the
successful fungus-fighting antibiotic.
Under the auspices of the
New York State Department of Health, Hazen was working in New York
City to develop a
medicine to kill various forms of fungus, while
Brown, in Albany, used her expertise to provide Hazen withspecific
and suitable forms of bacteria on which to work. After
months of exchanging soil samples and information throughthe
U.S. mail, they invented "Nystatin" (named for "NY
STATe Dept. of Health"), for which they eventually earned
#2,797,183 (June 25, 1957).
Infections from fungus had been a major
problem for soldiers in World War II. New drugs like penicillin were
on the contrary, these kill the body's bacteria that fight
fungus. Hazen and Brown's Nystatin, still used today
trade names, not only cures various potentially devastating fungal
infections of the skin and digestive
system, but has even been used
to combat Dutch Elm disease in trees and to restore artwork damaged by
water and mold.
Hazen and Brown invested all their royalties from Nystatin (over $13 million) in the nonprofit "Research
Corporation," which had helped them earlier to obtain a patent for their drug. Their generosity has provided for a
great deal of further medical research; their example has inspired many women to pursue a scientific career.