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Connecticut researchers receive national award

Develop unusually powerful oral antibiotic

Two Connecticut chemists and their Croatian colleagues will be honored on August 20 by the worlds largest scientific society for discovering a new and unusual kind of antibiotic. As a team, Gene Michael Bright, Arthur E. Girard, Slobodan Djokic and Gabrijela Kobrehel will be designated one of 12 Heroes of Chemistry by the American Chemical Society at its 220th national meeting, in Washington, D.C.

"If theres one word to summarize my work with azithromycin, its serendipity," said Bright, a synthetic organic chemist at Pfizer Inc.s central research division. The antibiotic kills a broad spectrum of microbes -- from haemophilus and respiratory infections to chlamydia, which is generally transmitted sexually but can also infect the eye, causing blindness in thousands of Third World children.

"Azithromycin is the only antibiotic that actually leaves the bloodstream and accumulates in the tissues at the site of infection. Six pills can give two weeks of therapy," the research advisor explained. "None of this was part of the original concept. This is where I really have to give credit to such bright teammates."

Slobodan Djokic, research director at Pliva, a Croatian pharmaceutical company, made the drugs original version in 1982 with Pliva colleague Gabrijela Kobrehel. Brights research team at Pfizer spotted their intriguing patent and remade the molecule for testing in mice. The results were exciting, but the original drug did not work in oral form.

Eight months later, Bright discovered that a small structural change turned the molecule into a powerful oral -- and commercially viable -- antibiotic. Pfizer applied for a U.S. patent, not knowing that Plivas Djokic had made an identical discovery. Patents were mistakenly issued to both, and the two companies decided to partner to develop what later became azithromycin. Animal studies conducted by Pfizer pharmacologist Arthur Girard confirmed the
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Contact: Christina Curtin
c_curtin@acs.org
202-872-4400
American Chemical Society
17-Aug-2000


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