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Laboratorios Syntex SA was a pharmaceutical company formed in Mexico City in 1944 by Russell Marker to manufacture therapeutic steroids from the Mexican yams called cabeza de negro (Dioscorea mexicana) and Barbasco (Dioscorea composita). The demand for barbasco by Syntex initiated the Mexican barbasco trade.[1]

Syntex chemists synthesized cortisone from diosgenin, a phytosteroid contained in Mexican yams. This synthesis was more economical than the previous Merck & Co. synthesis, which started with bile acids.[citation needed]

Syntex was integrated into the Roche group in 1994.

Prominent researchers[edit]

Birth control pill[edit]

Syntex submitted its compound to a laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, for biological evaluation, and found it was the most active, orally-effective progestational hormone of its time. Syntex submitted a patent application in November 1951. In August 1953, G.D. Searle & Co. filed for a patent for the synthesis of the double-bond isomer 13 of norethindrone called norethynodrel. Norethynodrel is converted into norethindrone under acidic conditions, such as those in the human stomach, and the new patent did not infringe on the Syntex patent. Searle obtained approval to market norethynodrel before Syntex received its approval. By 1964 three companies including Syntex were marketing 2-mg doses of the Syntex norethindrone.[citation needed]

Scientific misconduct[edit]

Syntex's submission of a fraudulent toxicology analysis of naproxen largely led to the Food and Drug Administration's uncovering of extensive scientific misconduct by Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories in 1976.[3][4][5][6]


  1. ^ Soto Laveaga, Gabriela (2009). Jungle Laboratories: Mexican peasants, National Projects and the Making of the Pill. Duke University.
  2. ^ Rosenkranz had fled Nazi Germany to avoid the eventual Holocaust; while in Cuba en route to South America, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor stranded him there. He was able to work there for the duration of the war.
  3. ^ Marshall, Eliot (1983-06-10). "The murky world of toxicity testing" (PDF). Science 220 (4602): 1130–1132. Bibcode:1983Sci...220.1130M. doi:10.1126/science.6857237. PMID 6857237. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  4. ^ "The Scandal in Chemical Testing". The New York Times. 1983-05-16. Retrieved 2012-07-27. "The problem was discovered only by accident, when a Government official looking for something else pulled out a file of IBT data by mistake." 
  5. ^ Merrell, Paul (Winter 1981). "The Industrial Bio-Test Caper". NCAP News 2 (3): 2–4. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  6. ^ Foster, Douglas; Mark Dowie; Steve Hubbell; Irene Moosen; Peter Waldman; Center for Investigative Reporting (June 1982). "Poisoned Research". Mother Jones 7 (5): 38–40, 42–43, 45–48. Retrieved 2012-07-28.