The development of penicillin in the Netherlands 1940-1950 : the pivotal role of NV Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek, Delft
In November 1945 the recovery of Maria Geene in Delft's Bethel Hospital signaled the success of the secret wartime research on penicillin at NV Nederlandsche Gist- en Spiritusfabriek (NG&SF) in Delft, the Netherlands. Fifty years later, Gist-Brocades, of which NG&SF was the forerunner, had become one of the world's largest producers of bulk penicillin. By the year 2005, GistBrocades was part of Dutch State Mines and market forces required that all production of penicillin in Delft stop. While the historiography of the Netherlands during its years of occupation is well documented, little has been recorded of the wartime research with penicillin at NG&SF. Also, little has been documented of NG&SF's determination, at the end of the war, to continue penicillin production, a time when the whole of the Netherlands required reconstruction. By 1950 the continued success ofNG&SF was highlighted by the gift of the predicate Koninklijke (Royal). It is known that it was information on the success of Allied penicillin that stimulated the wartime research ofNG&SF. This thesis, therefore, begins with a general history of penicillin production in Britain, the United States and Canada. This is offset by the unsuccessful experiences of France, Germany and Japan. For the Netherlands, Nazi occupation meant that, from May 1940, the whole country was cut off from the outside world. In fact, this occupation occurred three months before Florey and his associates first published on penicillin in Lancet. Also, from 1943 there was an Allied embargo on publications regarding penicillin. How, therefore, did knowledge of Allied penicillin reach the Netherlands? Was NG&SF the only Dutch company interested in penicillin? Why were they successful? How, at the end of the war, could NG&SF consider financing such a new venture? It is the remit of this thesis to bring these questions to the fore.