The History of Pfizer and Penicillin, and Lessons for Coronavirus

  • Jasper Kane and John McKeen made mass production of penicillin happen at Pfizer
  • Asserts that making future vaccine free would be bad for national interest
  • Low vaccine prices has made us vulnerable
  • WWI disease death rate: 1.41%
  • WWII disease data rate 0.06%
  • Alexander Flemming discovered Penicillin in 1928
  • Flemming couldn’t isolate enough of the ingredient
  • Howard Florey revived Fleming work in 1939 and fixed a policeman
  • Kane and McKeen thought to use the same process they used for citric acid
  • Kane and McKeen built a commercial manufacturing plant in four months
  • Pfizer produced most of the Penicillin for WWII
  • No scientific leader in Washington who can push through advances
  • Vannevar bush talked his way into a meeting with FDR
  • Bush brought Pfizer and Florey together
  • People who might be able to play the scientific advisor role
    • Eric Lander
    • Sue Hellman


      March 2020


  • Why had nobody thought to scale up penicillin like citric acid?
  • Why didn’t Kane and McKeen start their own company




  • Safi Bahcall


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