A major step in chemistry and medicine, the synthesis of reserpine, an important drug in the treatment of mental disorders, was announced Saturday by Robert B. Woodward, Morris Loeb professor of Chemistry.
Reserpine is a "tranquilizing agent" used to calm patients suffering manic disorders, schizoid conditions, alcohol and drug addiction, and chronic psychoses. It has also been found effective in temporaily reducing high blood pressure.
Its synthesis was announced in the current Journal of the American Chemical Society, only a year following the discovery of the drug's structure. Research was completed by Woodward; three Swiss chemists, F.E. Bader, H. Bickel, and A.J. Frey: and a Canadian, R. W. Kierstead.
The announcement is important for a number of reasons. If practical means for producing the drug can be found, doctors will no longer depend on imports of the root from which it is made. This is particularly significant as it is possible that the nations exporting the root may soon put an embargo on it.
Scientifically, the synthesis confirms the structure of the drug, discovered a year ago, and permits the synthesis of drugs similar to reserpine which can aid in studying its action. Chemists may also be able to produce similar drugs with action like reserpine, but having none of its side effects.
Winner of the University's George Ledlie Prize this year, given to the faculty member making the most valuable contribution to science for the benefit of mankind, Woodward has been a leader in the field of organic synthesis. His other recent conquests include strychnine, cortisone, lysergic acid, and quinine.