Old ISS penicillin plant

Penicillin was first discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, but its industrial production only took off during World War II in the USA and Canada. In 1946, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the organization mainly controlled by the USA aimed at relieving the damages of war, set up an economic plan to provide the Italian government the funds to start a state production of penicillin. The president of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) at the time was Domenico Marotta. He took advantage of the UNRRA funds and at the same time involved the Nobel prize winner Ernst Boris Chain in the realization of the penicillin plant, which soon became one of the most relevant research centers for penicillin in the world. The production started in 1952 although the Old "Fabbrica di penicillina LEO" was already the main supplier of penicillin in Italy.


Facade of the production plant.


Nowadays some of the smaller fermenters are still used by the personnel of the ISS.


Chain, Marotta and the Italian prime minister De Gasperi at the inauguration in February 1948.

  • Main text and photos by Joshua Bemporad ti.supmacla|daropmeb.auhsoj#| and Luca Rinaldi ti.supmacla|idlanir.acul#| (December 2018), information courtesy of Museo dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità.


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