Back to Blogs

HPG commemorates ANZAC Day and in so doing, celebrates the history of penicillin

Whats the link between penicilin and ANZAC day?

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the landing of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I on April 25, 1915.

Every year on April 25th we commemorate the soldiers who served and died in World War I, World War II and in all wars and conflicts.

During World War I antibiotics were not yet available, and infections were a major cause of death among soldiers.

In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, yet it took over a decade before it was developed into a purer, more stable and usable drug through the work of Howard Florey and Ernst Chain.

With the need to treat the bacterial infections of wounded soldiers in WWII there was an increased focus on penicillin production and in 1941 Florey traveled to the US to collaborate with pharmaceutical companies to scale up their production.

The first pharmaceutical company to produce penicillin on a large scale was Pfizer, based in New York. They developed a deep-tank fermentation process that increased production efficiency, and by1943 they were mass producing penicillin for the war effort.

By the end of the war, Pfizer had become the largest producer of penicillin in the world; with other contributors including Merck & Co; Squibb (now Bristol Myers Squibb); Glaxo Laboratories (now GlaxoSmithKline); Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI - now AstraZeneca) and Eli Lilly.

The development of antibiotics had a significant impact on treating bacterial infections that were life-threatening during WWII, and on April 25th as we commemorate ANZAC Day we also celebrate the remarkable achievements of the scientists who developed penicillin.