George Rosenkranz

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George Rosenkranz
George Rosenkranz HD2004 Winthrop-Sears Medal.jpg
George Rosenkranz receiving the Winthrop-Sears Medal, 2004
Born(1916-08-20) August 20, 1916 (age 97)
Budapest, Hungary
NationalityMexican
FieldsChemist
Known forSynthesis of norethisterone, the first orally highly active progestin, used in one of the first oral contraceptive pills
 
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George Rosenkranz
George Rosenkranz HD2004 Winthrop-Sears Medal.jpg
George Rosenkranz receiving the Winthrop-Sears Medal, 2004
Born(1916-08-20) August 20, 1916 (age 97)
Budapest, Hungary
NationalityMexican
FieldsChemist
Known forSynthesis of norethisterone, the first orally highly active progestin, used in one of the first oral contraceptive pills

George Rosenkranz (born György Rosenkranz, August 20, 1916) is a pioneering scientist in the field of steroid chemistry, who used native Mexican plant sources as raw materials.[1][2][3] He was born in Hungary, studied in Switzerland and emigrated to the Americas to escape the Nazis, eventually settling in Mexico.[1][4]

At Syntex corporation in Mexico City, Rosenkranz assembled a research group of organic chemists that included future leaders from around the world, such as Carl Djerassi and Alejandro Zaffaroni.[5][6][7][8] Revolutionary advances in the understanding of steroid drugs and their production occurred under Dr Rosenkranz’s direction.[9] Syntex synthesized a progestin used in some of the first combined oral contraceptive pills and numerous other useful steroids. Under Rosenkranz's leadership, Syntex became "a powerful international force in the development of steroidal pharmaceuticals",[10] and "a pioneer of biotechnology" in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rosenkranz stepped down as CEO in 1996, at the age of 65.[3]

In 2012, he was awarded the Biotechnology Heritage Award, in recognition of his significant contributions to the development of biotechnology through discovery, innovation, and public understanding.[6]

Rosenkranz is also an ACBL Grand Life Master at his hobby of Contract bridge, with more than 13,000 masterpoints and 11 NABC titles. He has written or co-authored more than 10 books on bridge.[11]

Scientific Research[edit]

External video
George Rosenkranz crop 2013 13-2744-1 1247.jpg
“Scientists You Must Know: Pioneering steroid researcher George Rosenkranzh”
“BIO 2013 Award Presentation to George Rosenkranz”, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1916, Rosenkranz studied chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where he received his doctorate.[3] His mentor, future Nobel Prize winner Lavoslav Ružička, began Rosenkranz's interest in steroid research. However, Nazi sympathizers were active in Zurich. Ružička shielded Rosenkranz and other Jewish colleagues, but their presence put their mentor at risk. "We got together and we decided to leave Switzerland to protect him," Rosenkranz said in a 2002 article for the Pan American Health Organization's magazine.[4]

Ružička arranged an academic position for Rosenkranz in Quito, Ecuador. While Rosenkranz was waiting in Havana, Cuba for a ship to Ecuador, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States immediately entered World War II. Unable to go to Ecuador, Rosenkranz accepted the Cuban president Fulgencio Batista's offer allowing refugees to stay in the country and work. He found work at the Vieta Plasencia Lab, where he was asked to develop treatments for venereal disease.[2]

The important role of hormones in human health was already known, but ways to synthesize them were unknown. George Rosenkranz's skills as a chemist attracted the interest of Emerik Somolo, a Hungarian immigrant, and Dr. Federico Lehmann at Syntex in Mexico City, Mexico.[3] They had formed the company in 1944 to work with Russell Marker, a Penn State professor, seeking to synthesize hormones from cabeza de negro.[12] Cabeza de negro, a toxic Mexican yam, contained precursor structures that could be transformed into the hormone progesterone. After a disagreement Marker left, taking his steroid knowledge with him. Rosenkranz was recruited to replace him, and moved to Mexico City in 1945.[4][13]

Rosenkranz faced the challenge of analyzing Marker's samples to identify their ingredients and reverse engineering Marker's chemical production processes. He didn't have much help: his initial staff included nine lab assistants and only one other chemist,[14] and Mexico lacked a Ph.D. program in chemistry.[15]

When he couldn't find enough fully trained local chemists, Rosenkranz recruited researchers from Mexico and around the world. Rosenkranz also helped to create an institute of chemistry, the Instituto de Quimica (Universidad Nacional Autуnoma de México), now considered "a flagship in Mexico's ethnobotanical research".[16] He was able to attract significant synthetic organic chemists as researchers and instructors and to obtain funding to expand programs for the training of organic chemists. He and his colleagues regularly worked at Syntex during the day and then spent the evenings teaching chemistry. Rosenkranz also helped to start the Institute for Molecular Biology in Palo Alto.[15]

Attracting young chemists such as Carl Djerassi and Alejandro Zaffaroni was critical to Syntex's first big success.[13] The Mayo clinic had reported that the steroid hormone cortisone was an effective anti-inflammatory, capable of relieving painful rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, as described by Djerassi, "Until 1951, the only source of cortisone was through an extraordinarily complex process of 36 different chemical transformations starting from animal bile acids."[17] Several prominent groups of international scientists were attempting to be the first to synthesize cortisone. Rosenkranz's team started working in two shifts, and their dedication paid off. In 1951, Rosenkranz, Djerassi, and their fellow researchers submitted a paper on the synthesis of cortisone, edging out reports from Harvard and Merck by a matter of weeks.[7][18][19][20]

Having successfully synthesized cortisone, the researchers at Syntex continued to work on the synthesis of progesterone. A female sex hormone, progesterone was used to help pregnant women avoid miscarriages, and to treat infertility.[17] Five months later, under the direction of Rosenkranz and Carl Djerassi, the synthesis of norethisterone (norethindrone) was successfully completed, and Syntex applied for a patent, which was granted as US patent 2,744,122 on May 1, 1956.[4][19][21] Once synthesized, the hormone's potential to inhibit pregnancy was soon recognized. Syntex initially reached an agreement with the American company Parke-Davis to market their hormone as a pregnancy aid, Norlutin, which was approved by the FDA in 1957.[22] However, Parke-Davis later withdrew, possibly over concerns about a possible Catholic boycott of its other products.[23] This delay placed Syntex at a disadvantage, but by 1962, they had partnered with Johnson & Johnson's Ortho division to introduce the birth control pill Ortho Novum, which used Syntex's norethindrone.[22] In 1964, Syntex announced its own oral contraceptive, Norinyl.[15][24]

Rosenkranz understood the importance of peer recognition, not just commercial success, to the scientists who worked for him. He has said, "To have people work productively, you have to build an intellectually challenging environment, allow creative freedom, and insure peer recognition and respect for the individual."[25] A cascade of papers on steroid chemistry issued from the Rosenkranz lab during the 1940s and 1950s.[7][15] Rosenkranz himself is the author or co-author of over 300 articles in steroid chemistry and is named on over 150 patents.[6]

Rosenkranz gave up his executive positions at Syntex in 1981.[6] Although technically retired for over three decades, Rosenkranz is still active in the industry. In 1996, he became a member of the board of Digital Gene Technologies[26] He is also president of the advisory board of ICT Mexicana.[25]

Scientific Memberships[edit]

Scientific Awards[edit]

Bridge[edit]

Rosenkranz is a world-class bridge player and one of the most successful in Mexico. He has won 12 North American Bridge Championships and has the rare distinction of having captured all four major team titles: the Grand Nationals, Reisinger, Spingold and Vanderbilt. He has represented Mexico and USA in dozens of world championship events since the early 1960s. In addition, he has made significant contributions to bidding theory. He created the Romex bidding system, an extension of Standard American with many gadgets. He invented the Rosenkranz double and Rosenkranz redouble,[29] and wrote more than a dozen books on bridge.[4]

Edith Rosenkranz's kidnapping[edit]

In July 1984, Rosenkranz' wife Edith was kidnapped at the summer North American Bridge Championships in Washington, D.C., and ransomed for one million dollars. The FBI and the District of Columbia police captured the kidnappers and she was returned safely.[30]

Bridge awards[edit]

Tournament record[edit]

Winner[edit]

Runners-up[edit]

Publications[edit]

Bridge books by Rosenkranz
Bridge by Rosenkranz and co-authors

The four Godfrey books combine fictional narrative and instructional bridge. The second, and first with co-author credit to Phillip Alder, Godfrey's Bridge Challenge "brings the Romex system to life through lively anecdotes instruction and quizzes". The last, Godfrey's Angels incorporates 1998–2001 improvements in the system.[31][32]

Memoir

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ness, Roberta B. (2013). Genius unmasked. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 9780199976591. 
  2. ^ a b "Scientists You Must Know: Pioneering steroid researcher George Rosenkranzh (Video)". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "George Rosenkranz (Oral History)". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Cohen, Gerald S. (2002). "Mexico's Pill Pioneer". Perspectives in Health Magazine: The Magazine of the Pan American Health Organization 7 (1). 
  5. ^ Juaristi, Eusebio (2 May 2003). "A few comments on the development of organic chemistry in Mexico". Arkivoc 2003 (11): 1. doi:10.3998/ark.5550190.0004.b01. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "George Rosenkranz to Receive 2013 Biotechnology Heritage Award". April 21, 2013. Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Morell, Virginia (23 January 1989). "Rewards Of Intellectual Bigamy". The Scientist. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "American Chemical Society International Historic Chemical Landmarks. The "Marker Degradation" and Creation of the Mexican Steroid Hormone Industry 1938-1945". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Steroid pioneer gets Heritage Foundation, BIO award". BioSpectrum. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Raber, Linda (25 October 1999). "Steroid Industry Honored". ACS News 77 (43): 78–80. 
  11. ^ "George Rosenkranz ACBL Hall of Fame Biography". American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  12. ^ Mandy, Redig (2005). "Yams of Fortune: The (Uncontrolled) Birth of Oral Contraceptives". Journal of Young Investigators. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Kornberg, Arthur (2002). The golden helix : inside biotech ventures. Sausalito, Calif.: University Science Books. p. 72. ISBN 9781891389191. 
  14. ^ Rosenkranz, George (2005). "The early days of Syntex". Chemical Heritage. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d Mandaro, Laura (8 August 2005). "Scientist George Rosenkranz; Innovate: His determination helped millions ease their pain, plan their families". Investor's Business Daily. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Laveaga, Gabriela Soto (2009). Jungle laboratories : Mexican peasants, national projects, and the making of the Pill. Durham [NC]: Duke University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0822346050. 
  17. ^ a b Flavell-While, Claudia (June 2010). "Engineering the sexual revolution". The Chemical Engineer: 46–47. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Rosenkranz, G.; Djerassi, Carl; Yashin, R.; Pataki, J. (7 July 1951). "Cortical Hormones from alloSteroids: Synthesis of Cortisone from Reichstein's Compound D". Nature 168 (4262): 28–28. doi:10.1038/168028a0. 
  19. ^ a b Djerassi, C (Dec 1992). "Steroid research at Syntex: "the pill" and cortisone.". Steroids 57 (12): 631–41. PMID 1481227. 
  20. ^ Padgett, John F.; Powell, Walter W., eds. (2012). The emergence of organizations and markets. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 409. ISBN 0691148872. 
  21. ^ US patent 2744122 
  22. ^ a b Schneider, Dona; Lilienfeld, David E., eds. (2011). Public Health The Development of a Discipline, Twentieth-century Challenges.. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0813550091. 
  23. ^ Li, Jie Jack (2008). Triumph of the heart : the story of statins. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0195323573. 
  24. ^ Watkins, Elizabeth Siegel (2007). The estrogen elixir : a history of hormone replacement therapy in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801868214. 
  25. ^ a b "Dr. George Rosenkranz Calls for Increased Commitment to Science and Research". BusinessWire. 31 October 2001. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "Digital Gene Technologies names Dr. George Rosenkranz to board of directors; former chairman, president and CEO of Syntex Corp. to assist in corporate development efforts". Business Wire. 4 September 1996. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Tweedy, Bryan D. (2004). "Honoring Syntex's 'Big Three'". Modern Drug Discovery. August: 29. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  28. ^ "Past Winners of the Winthrop-Sears Medal". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  29. ^ Francis, Henry G., Editor-in-Chief; Truscott, Alan F., Executive Editor; Francis, Dorthy A., Editor, Sixth Edition (2001). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge (6th ed.). Memphis, TN: American Contract Bridge League. p. 392-3. ISBN 0-943855-44-6. OCLC 49606900. 
  30. ^ Kay-Wolff, Judy (3 December 2011). "Time Marches On ...". BRIDGEBLOGGING. Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "Items by George Rosenkranz". The Bridge World. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  32. ^ "Bridge books reviewed – 53". Pattaya Bridge Club (Pattaya, Thailand). Retrieved 16 May 2014.

External links[edit]