(May 6, 1920—January 13, 2004)
(Courtesy of IBM Corporate Archives)
Arthur Nobile’s patent for the
invention, medical use, and production of the steroids
prednisone and prednisolone was one of the most significant
advances in medicine during the mid-twentieth century. These
highly effective anti-inflammatory drugs have saved many lives,
alleviated much suffering, and have become indispensable in
treating autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis,
Addison's disease, and lupus.
Prior to Nobile's work, the steroid cortisone was the primary
treatment for rheumatoid arthritis but had unpleasant side
effects. In 1950, Nobile succeeded in using bacteria to oxidize
cortisone to prednisone and hydrocortisone to prednisolone,
yielding effective treatments with minimal negative reactions.
Modifications of the prednisolone molecule have resulted in
compounds to treat asthma, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis,
cerebral edema caused by cancer, and skin disorders.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Nobile studied at San Diego State
University and University of California at Davis before earning
his A.B. from the University of California at Berkeley. The
discovery of prednisone and prednisolone heralded a new area of
chemical synthesis, creating a multi-billion dollar industry
based on the use of microbes to manufacture drugs.
Leroy E. Hood
John Joseph Lynott