University of Oxford

Development of penicillin drug

Lots of people know that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

What’s perhaps not as well known, is the work carried out by Oxford scientists a decade later to develop penicillin into a drug that could be used to treat bacterial infections in humans.

Those scientists – notably Howard Florey, Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley – were able to isolate and purify penicillin, demonstrating its successful use as an antibiotic first in mice and then, crucially, in people.

Their work ushered in the modern age of antibiotics and helped save millions of lives. In 1945, Florey and Chain were recognised, alongside Fleming, with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Oxford researchers are still at the forefront of efforts to understand disease and find new treatments and cures – including tackling the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Further reading