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Heatley, Norman (George)

penicillin scale antibiotic production

(1911– ) British biochemist: made possible the bulk production of the first antibiotic, penicillin.

Heatley was born in Suffolk, the son of a veterinary surgeon. After graduation at Cambridge he continued there, taking a doctorate in biochemistry. His first job, in 1936, was in the School of Pathology at Oxford, where his subsequent career was largely spent. He was working there with when, from 1939, the latter showed that the antibiotic penicillin had important potential clinical value. In the early work on it in Oxford it was secured only in small quantity, barely sufficient for even limited testing. However, Heatley devised the cylinder-plate assay method and a solvent-transfer extraction process, which made penicillin available on a substantial scale. Without this work it would have remained a laboratory curiosity; in fact, large-scale production in the UK and the USA began from 1942, with dramatic results in the treatment of infections. From that time, penicillin and later antibiotics dominated such treatment.

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