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Drug Research To Save Lives

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40 The Ann Arbor News, Sunday, January 9,1972

Edward Meyers, research assistant, studies problem in Microanalytical Lab, using desk calculator at elbow to check figures

Dr. Richard Okerholm uses mass spectrometer

At Parke, Davis Laboratories

Drug Research To Save Lives

By Larry Bush

(News Science Editor)

A staff of more than 400 persons at the Ann Arbor Parke, Davis & Co. Research Laboratories at 2800 Plymouth Rd. is involved in work related to synthesizing and testing up to 2,400 new chemical compounds each year.

While many of these compounds don’t pan out, others are proven valuable for the treatment of various diseases of mankind or have other medical uses such as in the case of anesthetics.

But the process is usually long and slow, often requiring years of labor by chemists, pharmacologists and toxicologists using electron microscopes, mass spectrometers, computers and other tools of modern science.

Back-up facilities in the architecturally-pleasing complex of six buildings which are set back from the highway on a 50-acre site, include a giant car wash type facility for animal cages, an automated glassware wash like an automobile factory assembly line, and glass blowers.

There is a huge chemical storage room, a cavernous animal food and bedding room, an appliance storage room, a 30,000-volume library, a 192 - seat auditorium for seminars, and even a power plant to provide 50 per cent of the facility’s electrical power needs.

Immediately behind the administration building, which is the structure in front seen by passersby on Plymouth Rd., is the laboratory building with 93 chemical and pharmacological laboratories. This
is the largest building and the one where the process of developing new pharmaceuticals starts. Each of the numerous individual laboratories is a complete unit with office, laboratory and animal care facilities between inner and outer passageways on each level.

Dr. Robert M. Hodges, Parke-Davis vice-president for research and development, is director of the Ann Arbor research laboratories as well as the firm’s other research operations in Detroit, Australia, Germany, Wales, Spain and Japan.

Dr. Hodges, Welsh born and educated and director of the Food and Drug Administration Office of New Durgs before joining the firm in 1968, administers the company’s worldwide research operations from his Ann Arbor office.

Aiding him as directors of departments in the local laboratories are Dr. L. M. Long, head of chemistry; Dr. D. A. McCarthy, head of pharmacology; Dr. S. M. Kurtz, head of toxicology; Dr. S. N. Preston, head of clinical investigation; Dr. A. M. Moore, head of research information services; and R. F. Ervin, research administrative services manager.

According to Dr. Hodges, the principal research programs at the Ann Arbor laboratories today are in the areas of cardiovascular-renal, endocrinology, neuropharmacology, analgestic-anti-inflammatory, biochemistry, and anti-infective agents.

With the aid of a computer “we can do work on development of cardio-vascular drugs (heart-bloodvessel disease) we couldn’t have done at all before,” he said.

In about 18 months from now the firm will have a computer system in operation which will permit immediate recording in Ann Arbor of drug test results at Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson. Prisioner volunteers become the first humans to take new drugs developed in the Ann Arbor laboratories after animal testing has proved them relatively safe.

An outside board of experts reviews the data from development and laboratory testing of the new drugs before prisoners are allowed to volunteer to take them. To the credit of the Ann Arbor Parke, Davis Laboratories they have never had a drug turned down by this impartial body.

Parke, Davis researchers were the first to synthesize an antibiotic in 1946 at the firm’s Detroit laboratories. The Ann Arbor laboratories were opened in April, 1960, as the firm’s major research facility and have since been the scene of many new pharmaceutical developments. (A 34,700    square-foot toxocology building was added in 1966, and the Administration Building expanded 50 per cent in 1969).

One of these was the anesthetic Ketalar (Ketamine), a safer anesthetic with very little if any side effects, which was tested on hundreds of patients at University Hospital here and other hospitals across the country, as well as in Germany, following the usual tests to make sure it was safe for humans.

A newer anesthetic developed in the Ann Arbor laboratories which is still only identified as C-I-744 and is now being tested at the U-M Medical Center, is reported to be even better. It still needs FDA approval and at present can only be used for research purposes in veterinary surgery.

Developments like these and others through research at the Parke, Davis Ann Arbor Laboratories help make the world a better place in which to live through improved ways to restore and maintain good health.

Laboratory Activities

John Covert and Delbert Mayes operate laboratory glassware washing machine apparatus (left). In the Microanalytical Lab (left, below) Thomas (Mike) Stickney, research assistant, analyzes compounds of organic chemicals. At right, below, Harry Rietman, master craftsman in the art of glass blowing, makes the specialized glass instruments needed for the experiments carried on in the Parke, Davis laboratories. And at right, one of the more unusual sights at Parke, Davis is this little laboratory set off by itself. This is a high-pressure lab, occupied solely by Bill Pearlman, veteran chemist. Pearlman says that he only has to watch himself, and there is less chance of making a mistake which could result in an explosion.

Photos By Jack Stubbs