Penicillin: Government:CMR


Committee for Medical Research

As noted above, the CMR was a subdivision of the OSRD. President Roosevelt created the OSRD and its subdivisions via Executive Order 8807 on June 28, 1941. This order established the OSRD within the Office for Emergency Management " '…to assure adequate provision for research on scientific and medical problems relating to the national defense' " (Hobby, 92). Although the OSRD, and later the WPB as well, coordinated penicillin research and production efforts, it appears that these agencies were not founded with this specific purpose in mind or due to Florey's visit. Rather, it seems that they were created because of the probability that the U.S. would be drawn into WWII and to prepare for the scientific and medical ramifications associated with such involvement (Hobby, 92). [In terms of the OSRD's creation, Hobby, 276, note 8, cites the Introduction to the Preliminary Inventory, NC-138, TRG 227, from the National Archives, and the Executive Order is reproduced in Irvin Stewart's Organizing Scientific Research for War, which I have given to Erin to scan-we have this].

Roosevelt appointed Vannevar Bush, an MIT engineer who had served as the head of the National Defense Research Committee, director of the OSRD (Swann, 157). As director, Bush was authorized to create advisory committees he felt were necessary and to "…enter into contracts with individuals, educational [and scientific] institutions [such as the National Academy of Sciences and the NRC], industrial concerns, and any other agencies for research purposes" (Swann, 158). Such contracts included the above-mentioned one with the Bradley Polytechnic Institute and a February 1943 contract with pharmaceutical companies producing penicillin. Through the latter contract, formed on CMR recommendation, the OSRD agreed to pay penicillin producers $200 per million units (Richards, 442). They revised this agreement over the next three years as production increased, resulting in $6 per million units in 1945 as penicillin prices were slashed (Richards, 442). In addition to contract arrangements, the OSRD supported "…research of countries whose defense the President deemed vital to the U.S…." and functioned as a liaison office for exchange between such countries and the U.S. (Swann, 158). The OSRD thus "…served as a center for the mobilization of scientific personnel and resources…" during WWII and coordinated, planned, and aided the research activities conducted by federal agencies, commercial firms, and research science (Hobby, 92). [For a chart of penicillin price slashes from July 1943 to January 1949, see Hobby, 187. For the contracts discussed above, speak with Erin to see if she might have any of these care of Dr. Lindee. For more information and potential documents that reveal the OSRD's role in such collaboration, see Irvin Stewart's Organizing Scientific Research for War, which I gave to Erin.]

The OSRD's-specifically Bush's-approval was required for the CMR's recommendations and its implementation of government funds (Richards, 442). As a subdivision of the larger agency, the CMR was responsible for suggesting to Bush "…the need and character of research necessary at the time," and they forwarded "…periodic reports to [Bush] on the progress and results of OSRD-subsidized and OSRD-contracted research" (Swann, 158). In this way, the CMR worked on behalf of the OSRD to direct research projects, keeping the OSRD informed of both academic science and commerce's progress with penicillin. Regarding the OSRD's various contracts, the CMR believed that the assistance of groups such as the NRC "…would permit the most efficient and comprehensive approach to the administration of wartime research" (Adams, 1991, 30). [I searched for documents to show this relationship between the CMR and the OSRD, and the only potential lead I found is Stewart's chapter on the OSRD in Organizing Scientific Research for War.]

In fact, the CMR itself was comprised of members who had affiliations with several of these agencies as well as with educational institutions and the armed forces. Specifically, Roosevelt selected A. N. Richards, professor of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, to serve as the CMR's chairman. The vice-chairman was Lewis H. Weed of Johns Hopkins and the NRC (chairman of its Division of Medical Sciences), and other civilian members included Alphonse R. Dochez of Columbia University and A. Baird Hastings of Harvard University. Brigadier General James S. Simmons and Rear Admiral Harold W. Smith were also CMR members, as well as L. R. Thompson of the U.S. Public Health Service, who was later replaced by R. E. Dyer, and the CMR's executive secretary, Irvin Stewart (Hobby, 92-93). The diversity of the group reveals the level of collaboration both among government agencies and between the government and commercial and academic organizations. [For a listing of these members, noted by Hobby, 92-93, note 9, see Andrus, et al., xi-xvii. These pages are found in Volume 1; however, I have only Volume 2 in my possession, but Penn Library has Volume 1 in storage (see my secondary sources bibliography). Perhaps we can find a picture of the Committee members as well?]

As noted in The Pharmaceutical Companies section, the goal of the CMR regarding penicillin, as evident in its fall 1941 conferences with pharmaceutical representatives, was to assess its therapeutic potential and its applicability to large-scale production (Hobby, 141-142). Richards proved central to the CMR's involvement in penicillin production. He organized the conferences with Merck, Lederle, Squibb, and Pfizer, serving as the "…impetus to break through the obstacles" of stimulating commercial investment and overcoming secrecy and risk (Helfand, et al., 38). The CMR's first involvement with penicillin pertained to aiding research at the NRRL, both through funding and by facilitating an exchange of findings between the NRRL and the pharmaceutical firms working on production. In January 1942, with the NRRL and pharmaceutical industry occupied with overcoming production difficulties, "…the CMR undertook the most important task of arranging for the clinical testing of penicillin through the appropriate committee of the [NRC[" (Helfand, 40-41). [Perhaps the proceedings from the first conference initiated by Richards will reveal this exchange of findings between the CMR, the NRRL, and the industry? Taken from Helfand, et al., 38, notes 36 and 37-Conference on Penicillin, 8 October 1941, National Archives, Record Group 227, OSRD, CMR, Special Subject File, Penicillin, 1941-September 1942.]