Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chloroquine : hiding one of WWII's most valuable secrets in 'plain sight' : in the scientific literature

To understand how OSRD fumbled the ball on synthetic penicillin but neatly hid the fact with lot of the taxpayers' money, consider the similar case of chloroquine, the best anti-malarial drug of WWII (aside from natural quinine) and a truly horrific example of the stupidity that can result from the excessive secrecy of war science.

The German chemical giant I G Faben had created what was to be ultimately called chloroquine in the 1930s and named it resochin.

They soon modified it slightly because they believed it to be too toxic and re-named the result sontochin and then offered that to their American subsidiary Winthrop Stearns.

They in turn offered sonotochin to the Rockefeller Institute in 1940 who were looking at effective chemical alternatives to quinine in event of a likely Pacific war.

Their leading expert - not a chemist - nevertheless felt he knew  chemistry well enough to dismiss sontochin's formula as hopelessly far too toxic .

Meanwhile, the OSRD was ramping up a truly Manhattan Project level effort to quickly screen or invent suitable chemical anti-malaria agents now that the Japanese have almost all the world's natural quinine.

They eventually felt they had invented a totally new anti-malarial agent but then in 1943, some French chemists in North Africa noticed it was exactly like the German sontochin , available all this time on the open market !

OSRD excelled at coverups ...

Extreme embarrassment - so the American 'discovery' was quickly slightly modified and called chloroquine and the awkward facts deeply hidden in the files.

But it got worse - for it was eventually found that the American invention #2 (chloroquine) was just the same old German invention resochin and that it ( great embarrassment for I G Faben) hadn't ever been toxic after all !

Similarly, the OSRD  worked to ensure that no one ever questioned the billions they spent competing with a German A Bomb that never existed.

They planned all along to quickly use their A Bomb on the greatly hated Japanese, almost regardless of the circumstances of the war, if only to prove its military value in the next war.

So when synthetic penicillin proved to be both a 15 year life-waster and a 4 year tax money waster the OSRD knew exactly how to cover that fact up.

They announced grandly that one of their very own chemist-researchers had actually produced synthetic penicillin but that currently, natural penicillin was still cheaper.

Actually the tiny amount of synthetic penicillin produced was an tiny impurity created in passing,  in the course of taking a totally wrong approach to the structure of penicillin :  and there still remains no way in the universe to scale up an error and get success.

It was all a calculated big lie or at best a deceitful half truth and entirely in keeping with the way that the OSRD operated from beginning to end....

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