(Special thanks to Arthur Whale for providing this account.)
The Attorneys: Arthur R. Whale, Class of 1956, was General Patent Counsel of Eli Lilly and Company and had oversight responsibility for obtaining the Prozac patent. (For a more complete biography of Mr. Whale, please see the page describing the Multigrade Asphalt patent.) The principal author of the patent was Dr. James L. Rowe. Rowe received his B.S. degree in organic chemistry from Princeton University and his Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. He then worked as a chemist on the Manhattan Project and later joined Lilly as an organic chemist assigned to design and synthesize organic compounds in various medicinal areas. After 10 years in the laboratory, he switched gears, obtained a degree in law from Indiana University, and entered Lilly's patent department. There he spent the balance of his Lilly life as a patent lawyer in diverse areas of organic chemistry. After retirement, he served as counsel to the Indianapolis law firm of Woodard, Emhardt, Naughton, Moriarty & McNett, where he continued practicing in the field of chemical patent law.
The Invention: Bryan Molloy and Klaus Schmiegel co-invented a class of compounds that includes the active ingredient in Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride). This compound became the world's most widely used antidepressant. Introduced by Eli Lilly and Company in the United States in 1988, Prozac represented a new class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).
The search led Molloy and Schmiegel to synthesize many new compounds. After numerous failures, Molloy and Schmiegel eventually synthesized and tested a group of compounds known chemically as aryloxyphenylpropylamines. They found that one of these, fluoxetine hydrochloride, was highly selective, affecting only the neurotransmitter serotonin. It proved to be the first commercially successful selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and revolutionized the treatment of depression.
Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells. Serotonin is secreted by one cell and picked up by receptors on another cell. Once this "message" is received, a neurotransmitter returns to the cell that secreted it in a process known as serotonin reuptake. Prozac is believed to inhibit the reuptake of serotonin in most patients suffering from depression It is also used extensively in treatment of compulsive/obsessive disorders, and premenstrual dysproic disorders.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Commerce presented the American Innovator Award to Molloy and Schmiegel as outstanding American inventors whose creative genius significantly improved life in the 20th Century.
The Inventors: Bryan Molloy was born in Scotland, where he grew up and attended school. After he graduated with B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, Molloy did postdoctoral work in the U.S. and Scotland before joining Lilly in 1966 as a senior organic chemist. In his career at Lilly, Molloy published over 100 papers and received over 30 patents on organic chemical products and processes.
Klaus Schmiegel was born in Chemitz, Germany, and in 1951 immigrated to Michigan. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Michigan, an A.M. degree in organic chemistry from Dartmouth College, and a Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry from Stanford University. He joined Lilly in 1968 as a senior organic chemist, remaining there until his retirement in 1993. During his career, he received 18 patents on synthesis of organic compounds.