Laboratorios Syntex SA was a pharmaceutical company formed in Mexico City in 1944 by Russell Marker to manufacture therapeutic steroids from the Mexican yam. Syntex was integrated into the Roche group in 1994.
- Russell Marker left the company and took his notebooks in a disagreement over compensation.
- George Rosenkranz had studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and was conducting pharmaceutical research in Cuba. He joined Syntex to replace Marker and hired Djerassi.
- Carl Djerassi went to work at Syntex in 1949 as the associate director of chemical research. He oversaw the research resulting in the first synthesis of norethindrone, the first orally active progestin, which led to the development of some of the first oral contraceptives.
- Luis E. Miramontes moved from UNAM to Syntex in 1950 as a researcher under the direction of Djerassi. He performed the first synthesis of an orally active progestin on October 15, 1951. The steroid was 19-nor-17 alpha-ethynyltestosterone, with the generic name of norethistrone or norethindrone, which led to the development of some of the first oral contraceptives.
Birth control pill
Syntex submitted their compound to a laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, for biological evaluation, and found it was the most active, orally-effective progestational hormone of its time. Syntex submitted a patent application in November of 1951. G.D. Searle & Co. filed for a patent for the synthesis of the double bond isomer 13 of norethindrone called norethynodrel in August of 1953. Norethynodrel is converted into norethindrone under acidic conditions, and their new patent didn't infringe on Syntex's. Searle obtained approval to market norethynodrel before Syntex received their approval. By 1964, 3 companies including Syntex were marketing 2 mg doses of Syntex's norethindrone. Syntex chemists synthesized cortisone from diosgenin, a phytosteroid contained in Mexican yams. This synthesis was a more economical than the previous Merck & Co. synthesis.
- Carl Djerassi; Steroids. 1994 Jan;59(1):58-9.
- Max F. Perutz; I Wish I’d Made You Angry Earlier: Essays on Science, Scientists, and Humanity. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press 1998.
- Carl Djerassi; This Man's Pill: Reflections on the 50th Birthday of the Pill. Oxford University Press 2001.
- Lara V. Marks; Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill.372 pp. New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2001.
- Carl Djerassi; Steroids Made It Possible. American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 1990.