NETWORKS BETWEEN LABORATORY. SCIENTISTS AND PHARMACEUTICAL. COMPANIES
The creation of networks between scientists and pharmaceutical companies was of central importance to research on sex hormones. The data suggest that those scientists who had succeeded in making arrangements with pharmaceutical industries formed the leading research groups in the new study of sex hormones. All three of the research groups that first isolated a pure female sex hormone worked in close cooperation with pharmaceutical companies. The American biochemist Edward Doisy, who reported the isolation of a crystalline estrogenic hormone to the Fifteenth International Physiology Congress held in Boston in 1929, cooperated with Parke, Davis, and Company. The work of the German biochemist Adolf Butenandt, who reported the isolation of the same hormone two months later, was supported by the Schering-Kalhbaum Company. Early in the following year, Ernst Laqueur supported by Organon, also isolated the hormone (Sneader 1985: 193-194).
Although the cooperation of laboratory scientists with pharmaceutical companies had major advantages, relationships with pharmaceutical companies could also be difficult, in particular in respect of the funding of research by grant agencies. In The Netherlands, the close connection between a private company like Organon and a university laboratory like the Pharmaco-Therapeutic Laboratory was often criticized, both inside and outside the scientific community. In 1931, the cooperation between Ernst Laqueur and Organon became a topic of debate in the City Council of Amsterdam, when Laqueur was called to account for the financial consequences of his connection with Organon. Laqueur had to convince the City Council that the municipal financial budget allocated to the Pharmaco – Therapeutic Laboratory in Amsterdam was not being (indirectly) spent on scientific equipment for Organon.3 In this debate, Laqueur also described the role of Organon in supplying his laboratory with the required research materials:
Large quantities of material are needed before substances can be obtained in a pure condition. The pharmaceutical laboratory does not have the means to purchase the required materials. Organon provides livers, urine and testes and whatever else might be needed for research…. This cooperation is of importance both for the Pharmaco-
Figure 4.1 Professor Dr Ernst Laqueur Source: Organon Archives
Figure 4.2 The staff of the Pharmaco-Therapeutic Laboratory at the University of Amsterdam in 1926
Source: Organon Archives
Therapeutic Laboratory and for Organon. If University Regulations were to prohibit professors from providing consultation, this would disadvantage the University, and the laboratory would not have much to show in terms of scientific results.4
Evaluating the developments in the 1920s, we can conclude that the quest for access to research materials had a significant impact on the research network and the strategic position of each group. During the 1920s, the relative independence of the previous decades was replaced by a strong interdependence of those involved in research on sex hormones. Laboratory scientists and gynecologists had become dependent on the pharmaceutical companies for the supply of research materials. The pharmaceutical companies gained the strategic position of controlling the supply of these materials. However, the pharmaceutical companies in turn, as well as the gynecologists, had to rely on the laboratory scientists. As we saw in Chapter 3, the laboratory scientists had achieved the strategic position of possessing biological assay techniques to guarantee the quality of commercial hormone products. Thus, in addition to the supply of research materials, the availibility of techniques also had an impact on the inter-relationships between the groups, strengthening the network created around the research materials. In the course of the 1920s, the character of the relationships between the groups thus shifted from one of critical partners sharing a common interest to one in which the groups were heavily dependent on one another to gain access to research materials.