Lloyd H. Conover
Born Jun 13 1923
Patent Number(s) 2,699,054
Lloyd H. Conover invented the antibiotic tetracycline, which became the most prescribed broad spectrum antibiotic in the United States within three years and remains the drug of choice for a number of serious bacterial infections.
Tetracycline was the first therapeutically superior drug to be made by chemical alteration of an antibiotic produced by microbial metabolism. It sparked a wide-scale search for superior structurally modified antibiotics, which has provided most of the important antibiotic discoveries made since then.
Born in Orange, New Jersey, Conover received his A.B. from Amherst College in 1947 and a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1950. At first he thought he wanted to teach, but he joined the fledgling Chemical Research Department of Pfizer instead. There he joined a team which was exploring the molecular architecture of the broad-spectrum antibiotics Terramycin and Aureomycin. The tetracycline patent was attacked in court from its issue in 1955 until the final ruling in 1982. But Conover's patent was consistently upheld by the courts. Conover also led the Pfizer team which, in collaboration with Harvard Professor R.B. Woodward, first synthesized from small molecular building blocks, 6-demethyl-6-deoxytetracycline, the simplest member of the tetracycline antibiotic family. Together with coinventors W.C. Austin and J.W. McFarland, Conover patented the anthelmintic drugs pyrantel and morantel in 1972. Pyrantel remains a leading drug for the treatment of most of the intestinal worm parasites of man. Each of these drugs also retains an important place in the control of such parasites in farm and companion animals. Conover became research director at Pfizer Central Research in Sandwich, England, in 1971. He retired as a senior vice president in 1984.