00:00:00Please note that there are some instances in this interview when the audio is
not in sync with the transcript. In some cases, audio content was not
transcribed. In other cases, the transcribed material is included earlier or
later in the written transcript than when it is mentioned in the audio
recording. Notations in the following text indicate where significant
TRAYNHAM: Dr. Rosenkranz, I know that you were born August 20, 1916, in
Budapest. Please tell me about your parents and early childhood.
ROSENKRANZ: I was born into a middle-class family. My father Bernhardt--or
Bernard--was a self-made man. He left his home in Gyor, Hungary, when he was
00:01:00about thirteen to work in Vienna, Austria. Eventually he joined a company that
made elastic belts and suspenders. Later on, he set up his own manufacturing
company in Hungary in partnership with the people who had employed him in Austria.
My mother Ethel also came from a middle-class family. Her brothers, uncles, and
00:02:00other relatives were in the bakery business, but they were very intellectual.
Several of my mother's cousins had strong interests in music, art, and
languages. That was a very stimulating environment to grow up in.
As for education, I went to what was in those days one of the best academies in
Hungary, the Reichsdeutsche Schule or German School. The European education
00:03:00system is different from the American: you go to the same school from elementary
through twelfth grade, a total of twelve years.
TRAYNHAM: That was in Budapest?
ROSENKRANZ: Yes. I mention the school because apart from providing an excellent
education, it was there my interest in chemistry got started. The director of
the school was a chemist, and during my last two years, I learned so much
chemistry that when I finally got into the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule
[ETH]--I'll tell you more about that in a moment--I practically didn't have to
00:04:00do anything in terms of learning for the first year.
I graduated from the German School in 1933, passing the matura exam. Next, of
course, came higher education. My nightmare was that I would be accepted at the
Hungarian University, as my parents hoped. I was their only child and they
wanted me to stay close to home. But the political situation was such that I
00:05:00didn't want to remain in Hungary. We were a Jewish family, and in those days, we
had the so-called "numerus clausus." This meant that only 10 percent of a
university's students could be Jewish. I was afraid that with my good grades, I
would be admitted. My parents insisted that I apply, but I wanted to get away.
As you know, Hitler came to power around that time.
There was another danger. I was a good scholar and I was awarded a fellowship to
00:06:00study chemistry at a university with one of the best faculties in this
field--Charlottenburg, Hautenberg [Technical University] in Berlin. As I feared,
I was accepted in Budapest. I didn't want to stay here; I didn't want to go there.
I pestered my parents so much that they finally let me apply to the ETH in
Zurich. Before being accepted there, I had to take an examination in spatial
00:07:00geometry, which we were not taught at the German School. I passed and moved to
Switzerland in 1933.
00:08:00TRAYNHAM: You made the trip alone? Your family didn't relocate?
ROSENKRANZ: Sure, I went alone. For the first year, I lived with a Swiss family.
That's when I learned Schwitzer-Deutsch, which is probably the only language in
which I do not have an accent. [laughter] Schwitzer-Deutsch is very hard to
learn because it's not really High German, and the accent is somewhat peculiar.
I always loved languages and speak six. I grew up with Hungarian and German,
learned French at eight, English at ten. Later I picked up Italian and Spanish.
TRAYNHAM: Tell me about your studies in Switzerland.
00:09:00ROSENKRANZ: I stayed for eight years in Zurich attending the university, the
normal process in those days. The first four years can be compared with
undergraduate studies in the U.S. The ETH, which is the academic equivalent of
MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] or Caltech [California Institute of
Technology], confers the degree Diplom Ingenieur der Chemie, which is not
exactly the same thing as an American degree in chemical engineering, which
emphasizes engineering. There, it's chemistry with some engineering.
I was very, very lucky because the professors I had were extraordinary. Several
00:10:00had already won the Nobel Prize and others received it later. In organic
chemistry, I had Leopold Ruzicka; in physics, Paul Scherrer of the
Debye-Scherrer diagram; and in analytical chemistry, William Treadwell, who is
famous in the literature for his work on analytical methods. In inorganic
technology and organic technology, I had two outstanding people: August Guyer
and Hans Edward Fierz-David, who was sort of the father of the dyestuff industry.
00:11:00In order to graduate from the ETH, you had to have focused by the end of your
fourth year on four out of five major disciplines I did not select physical
chemistry. Instead I chose organic and inorganic chemistry, and organic and
inorganic technology. Of all my teachers, Ruzicka was the most important. He
inspired me to specialize in organic chemistry.
TRAYNHAM: What did you do when you weren't studying?
ROSENKRANZ: By the time I got to Switzerland, the economic situation had changed
in Hungary--we were already in the Hitler years--and my parents couldn't support
my studies any longer. The Swiss government did not allow foreigners to hold
00:12:00gainful employment. But I managed to support myself. In Hungary, I had been the
00:13:00junior table-tennis champion, and for a time in Switzerland, I made a living by
freelance coaching a table-tennis team in the little town of Adliswil. The other
thing that was open to me was theatre. I was assigned small roles, which gave me
an indirect income. We weren't paid in cash--that was forbidden--but we had
00:14:00access to theatre tickets, which we could then convert into income. [laughter]
That wasn't all. At the end of the fourth year in order to graduate, you had to
take both a written and oral exam and you had to write a mini-thesis, or
diplomarbeit, in four of your five areas of special interest. One section of my
mini-thesis was an assignment in organic chemistry in Ruzicka's lab. The
assignment consisted of two parts. First, I had to do an organic analysis, then
00:15:00a small synthesis. For the organic analysis, I was given a sample mixture, from
which I carefully picked some crystals to look at. I had about four weeks for
this project. I quickly completed the analysis and wound up maybe ten to
fourteen days ahead of the other students who each had a different compound to
analyze and synthesize. So I told the teaching assistant who was a good friend
of mine: "Let's start the synthesis." "No, you're too much ahead of the class to
do that," he replied. "Just go and do what you want."
Well, I love to play tennis. So, one nice morning I'm coming down the
00:16:00Universitatstrasse dressed in my tennis outfit--you wore long pants in those
days--when whom did I see but Ruzicka. I said hello to him. He didn't have too
much contact with students, you know, except in classes. He looked at my bag and
said, "Aren't you supposed to be in my class here? Aren't you supposed to be
doing your diplomarbeit?" "Yes, Herr Professor." "Then how come you're here?"
"Well--" and I told him the story. An hour went by, then my teaching assistant,
Meldahl, called and said, "You idiot! What the hell did you do? Ruzicka came to
me and said, 'What is this joke here with this guy, what's his name, Rosenkranz?
He's wandering around the university with his tennis racket in hand when he's
00:17:00supposed to be in the laboratory. Give him some work to do.'" Meldahl continued,
"You just made a big mistake. Now you can start your synthesis."
TRAYNHAM: It was what you had wanted to do. What was the difficulty?
ROSENKRANZ: For a synthesis, you are generally assigned four steps. Meldahl
said, "No, my friend, you have been given eighteen steps. You will never finish
this, ergo you will never pass. You will never get to the final exams." I
started to work like a demon. But near the end of the academic year, when you
were supposed to begin preparing for your exams, I still had done only nine or
ten steps. I didn't finish. I thought I had blown it.
00:18:00Then I received a special permit to take the oral exam before I finished the lab
work. I got to my organic chemistry exam with Ruzicka. This exam usually took
around half an hour. Ruzicka said, "Okay, well, let's see what you know, huh?
Are you still playing tennis?" I replied, "Yes, but I have no time." [laughter]
He said, "Okay, fine." Ruzicka pulled out Paul Karrer's Lehrbuch der Orgnischen
Chemie, which was the bible of organic chemistry in those
days. "In the Karrer, there are six errors. Name three
00:19:00of them," he said. I had read the book, and I could name three errors. "Okay.
But let's see what else you know. Can you give me the synthesis of Vitamin B1?"
This was completely new then, but I had read the recent publication. I wrote the
synthesis on the blackboard. "B2." I wrote the synthesis for that one, too. He
opened the Karrer book to the index, found the letter D, and began questioning
me about the listed topics. He continued to the letter E, grilling me. Time
passed. I'd been with Ruzicka one-and-a-half hours and was sure I had blown it
00:20:00when he arrived at F. I remember it as if it were today. He asked, "What is
formose?" "Formose is a polymer of formaldehyde and a synthetic sugar, but if
you write it with an A at the end, it's a peninsula in the Japanese Sea."
(Nowadays, it's called Taiwan.) He looked at me and started grinning. He asked,
"What are your future plans?" "Herr Professor, up to one-and-a-half hours ago, I
was hoping to do my doctoral thesis with you; but now, since I obviously have
blown it, I don't know what I'm going to do." He replied, "Okay, you can start
working for me on Monday." That was it. I said, "But Herr Professor, I still
haven't finished my synthesis." "Oh, that. Forget about it. You don't have to
00:21:00finish the synthesis." So, I am the only person in ETH history who got a degree
for his work in organic chemistry without having to finish his diplomarbeit. [laughter]
TRAYNHAM: How did your relationship and work with Ruzicka go?
ROSENKRANZ: Eventually we became very, very good friends. When I started working
with him, I focused on triterpenes. Ruzicka was famous for his work on steroids,
which later had a certain impact on my life. What an understatement!
I still had financial problems, so in the evenings I went to the Schauspielhaus
00:22:00[theater] in Zurich, where I acted in several classic and modern plays. One
night, we were doing a piece by [Luigi] Pirandello called Jenny und der Herr in
Frack, which means, "Jenny and the gentleman in tails." I had a really wonderful
part: I didn't have too much to do and I didn't have to wear makeup. When I was
on stage, I looked down and saw Ruzicka in the third row. I wondered what would
happen. Next morning, he telephoned me and said, "Rosenkranz, what on earth were
you doing up on stage?" "Dear Professor, if you had my financial problems, you'd
00:23:00be up on the stage too." [laughter] He laughed, and then said, "Enough of this nonsense."
Within days, to supplement my fellowship, I was given a salary of eight hundred
Swiss francs a month, which in those days was monumental, equivalent to about
eight hundred dollars per month. For a student and bachelor, it was fantastic.
The only condition was that I quit the theatre.
TRAYNHAM: What was your work like?
ROSENKRANZ: I was heading a group that was working on triterpenes. My thesis had
been on a triterpene called lupeol. This was an interesting project because
lupeol turned out to be a pentacyclic triterpene. I proved that it has a
00:24:00five-membered ring--instead of the normal six-membered ring--with an isopropenyl
group attached. That was new. Other researchers later confirmed my findings.
More interestingly, this ties into my later history. I started speculating on
how one could convert this compound into a steroid, which also has a
five-membered ring. I became familiar with the work of Russell Marker, a
brilliant organic chemist, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who
was working on steroidal sapogenins. When I wrote up my thesis, I left a sort of
legacy by saying that this was something that should be investigated.
Ruzicka was also very interested in the biosynthesis of natural products, like
terpenes. He had invented the isoprene rule. As I pointed out, the rule neatly
00:25:00tied in with the possible connection in the biogenesis between steroids and some
of these terpenes.
[This section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning
TRAYNHAM: What was Ruzicka like?
ROSENKRANZ: He came into the lab early in the morning, at eight o'clock. He knew
everything that was going on with every one of his doctoral students and
postdoctoral fellows. Often he visited me while I was running a reaction, and he
knew if I'd lost three milligrams of a compound. He would ask me, "Rosenkranz,
what happened to those three milligrams of this derivative?" [laughter] He was a
great leader. He would give us the results of the microanalysis check that had
been run on the compounds we thought we had produced. If you made an oxime and
you didn't get the right yield, he'd ask why. He remembered every detail, every compound.
Another episode that was typical of Ruzicka: selenium dioxide surfaced as a
reagent about that time. The first application of selenium dioxide was in work
with cholesterol derivatives; we knew about it. One day, I went to him and said,
"Poldi--that's how we used to call him--I would like to use selenium dioxide
with the triterpenes." He asked, "Why do you want to do that?" "I can introduce
the double bond, and maybe I can put in a alpha-beta unsaturated ketone."
"What's wrong with chromium trioxide?" "This is something new." "Okay, try it."
After running the experiment, I went to him and said, "You see, I told you. What
I got is very interesting." He replied, "Nun ja, so kann man das ja auch
machen--Well, yes, you can make it that way too." [laughter] That was his answer
to my great new invention.
[Audio recording resumes here, beginning around 0:25:07]
His doctoral students were working in three fields: triterpenes, steroids, and
fragrances. We, the foreigners, worked on triterpenes. The Swiss concentrated on
steroids, because that work was supported by Ciba [now Novartis]. The big secret
was the third group. There were two outstanding chemists there. They were
working in great secrecy on active ingredients of fragrances like irone and its
derivatives, lactones and large rings.
00:26:00Interestingly enough, and typical, as I later encountered when dealing with
European industry, you were not allowed to know what the guy next to you was
doing. This is sensible from one point of view but it's maybe not the most
effective approach. I had many pleasant and brilliant colleagues. One was Leo
[H.] Sternbach, who later invented Valium for Roche. He worked on the next bench
to me, and headed another group working on diterpenes. Oscar Jeger, now a
retired professor, was a little bit younger, and he was one of Sternbach's lab
assistants. Thaddeus Reichstein, a later Nobel Prize winner, was working with
00:27:00Ruzicka as a TA [teaching assistant] in those days. Max Furter was the head of
the microanalysis lab; he spearheaded applying the methods of physical chemistry
to organic chemistry. I mention all these people because the Swiss school was
excellent in teaching you how to work in the laboratory. Ruzicka instilled in
you a great respect for physical methods of organic chemistry.
On the other hand, though, he didn't believe in the electronic interpretations
of organic reactions and reaction mechanisms. This negative orientation played a
00:28:00crucial role in my work later, when I left Switzerland. [This section of the
transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning around 2:44:49] When I
came to the United States, I found that theoretical science had conquered many
people, including Carl Djerassi, Gilbert Stork, and E. [Elias] J. Corey.
Everybody was using electronic interpretations. I had to start learning all of
this science from the very beginning just to be able to communicate with these guys.
[Audio recording resumes here, beginning around 0:28:00]
TRAYNHAM: What was it like doing research in Europe during the War years?
ROSENKRANZ: The War started and I was still there working towards getting my
advanced degree of a doctor of technical sciences. But I knew that once I
finished my studies, I would have to leave Switzerland. With the help of
Ruzicka, I postponed all of my exams while the Nazis were in power in Germany.
I would like to give you one episode of this phase. There were, of course,
always Nazi sympathizers around. And nowadays, you hear so much about the
00:29:00connection between Swiss gold and the Germans, but not everybody was a
sympathizer. Maybe the bankers were, but the Swiss people, I must point out in
their defense, went with the Swiss military. They strongly believed in
preserving the neutrality of Switzerland. Ruzicka was an interesting character.
On the one hand, he was a Communist sympathizer, but on the other hand, he was a
devout Catholic, and he had some sort of distinction from the Pope. And these
two things seem really kind of contradictory.
ROSENKRANZ: Yes, very unusual. He was protecting the Jews. One day, when there
was a threat that the Nazis would march into Switzerland in the same way they
had entered Belgium, Holland, and Poland, I went to the lab. There was nobody
there; everyone had fled to the French border. Then Ruzicka came in wearing the
uniform of a sergeant in the Swiss army chemical corps. Ruzicka said to me,
"Rosenkranz--" excuse my interrupting for a moment, but in those days in Europe,
if you were really intimate with someone, you called him by his family name,
without mister, without doctor, not by his first name. "Rosenkranz, I'm not
going to let these Germans have our lab books, the results of our research." We
00:30:00went outside the Zurich city limits, dug a hole, and put the notebooks into it.
TRAYNHAM: Did you wrap them to protect them?
ROSENKRANZ: Yes. Yet, as you know, nothing happened. Everybody came back and I
went out with Ruzicka to dig up the notebooks. The notes weren't ready for
publication then, as they were primarily ideas, charts, and so on. There were
also many things that had not been written down. Ruzicka once told me that he
had developed a total synthesis of quinine, long before Robert B. Woodward.
Ruzicka said that he was going to leave it to posterity. I don't know what
happened to it, though. I don't even know whether it was ever seen by someone
00:31:00else, or whether it was feasible, or just an idea, but whatever it was, those
were his intentions. Later on, Woodward achieved the monumental task: the total
synthesis of quinine.
The political pressure the Germans exerted became greater and greater during the
War. Ruzicka's right-hand man was a distinguished scientist named Moses
Goldberg. By that time, Max Furter had become the president of Hoffmann-La Roche
in the United States. The company was afraid the Germans were going to occupy
Switzerland, so they had set up a U.S. subsidiary. Goldberg became the director
00:32:00of research, and he took many of his co-workers with him to the U.S. All these
Jewish colleagues were saying that they couldn't stay in Switzerland because it
was putting Poldi in jeopardy. I decided that I was also going to leave. [This
section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning around
2:43:17] Many years later I wanted Poldi to meet my family. I took my children
to Zurich where he was sort of retired. He was in his home. I don't know whether
you were at his home or not.
ROSENKRANZ: He had a beautiful rock garden and an outstanding collection of
alpine flowers. Poldi liked plants, gardening, and he liked my children. We
chatted about the olden days, and we talked about my life. Very, very often, as
my colleagues tell me, Ruzicka used to quote that he had two students, who
really made it good. One was Sternbach and the other one was myself. He always
reminded me of that. He would say, "You know, you really must honor your
ancestry because your chemical grandfather was [Richard Martin] Willstatter.
Because I was Willstatter's student, you are his chemical grandson." We had such
a wonderful relationship, Poldi and I. He was a tough guy when it came to the
lab; otherwise he was very, very sweet.
[Audio recording resumes here, beginning around 0:32:22]
TRAYNHAM: I know bridge played an important role in your career, specifically in
getting you from Europe to the New World. Can you tell me about it?
ROSENKRANZ: I learned to play contract bridge in Budapest, when I was eleven
years old. My parents took classes. With my schoolmate, Albin Salton, who sat
next to me in class, we learned as our parents learned. We ordered Culbertson's
00:33:00Blue Book from the United States and eagerly learned all his methods, soon
beating our parents. These victories supplemented our allowances. I continued to
play a little bridge in Switzerland. This was another source of income because I
played in a club for money. But it is very difficult to play bridge for money
when you have no capital to begin with.
I'm mentioning this because bridge allowed me to enter into the higher echelon
of Swiss society, where I met a different circle of people. One influential
00:34:00person I met was the wife of the consul of Ecuador. She said to me, "I'll talk
to my husband, and maybe he can get you a visa for Ecuador." I knew that if I
had an academic post waiting, it would be much easier. I talked to Ruzicka about
this possibility, and he got me a chair to teach organic chemistry at the
University of Quito. So, I got a visa for Ecuador, and left in October 1941.
00:35:00I had a very interesting voyage from Zurich through Nazi Germany, through
occupied France, to Spain. There, I was supposed to take a boat to Cuba, with an
onward connection to Ecuador. I traveled with my good friend Steve Kaufmann, who
was also Hungarian and had worked with Ruzicka. He also got a visa, but wanted
00:36:00to go to the States. We boarded the same boat, along with someone we had met on
the train, Nick Judovics, a co-worker of Professor Verzar in Basel. We became
good friends during the voyage. Verzar was the inventor of the metrazol shock.
First came the insulin shock in schizophrenia, and then they did it with
metrazol. Nick Judovics, who later changed his name to Nick Young, was doing the
main lab work. The three of us boarded the ship out of Bilbao. It took about
00:37:00three weeks to reach Cuba. By that time, I'd learned some Spanish. When we
reached Cuba, I began waiting for the boat to Ecuador.
TRAYNHAM: During this nearly month-long trip, did you talk chemistry all the
way, or did you play bridge, or did you just talk in Spanish?
ROSENKRANZ: [laughter] Now you are asking me a difficult question. No, we didn't
talk chemistry. We were too worried about the War. As a matter of fact, we were
stopped once by a German submarine and later by a British submarine. Apparently
there was a German spy on our boat, who had hidden maps of mines. The British
00:38:00took the boat apart, finally finding the maps. We stopped in Bermuda too; it was
all very scary.
Actually, when the German submarine stopped us, and we didn't know what was
going to happen, I asked myself, "What if this is the end of your life. How do
you feel about what you have done? Are you happy? Are you sorry? Or what?" I
answered myself that I wasn't sorry about anything I had done, and that I had
lived a good life. If this were the end, I knew I would have done it all over
again the same way.
00:39:00Needless to say, my parents were very disappointed with my decision to leave
Europe. Slowly communication between us stopped. I couldn't reach them because
of the situation in Hungary and they couldn't reach me. As it transpired, I was
in Cuba four years and I never heard from them. Of course, it vindicated my
decision to leave Hungary, painful though it had been to leave my parents
behind. Soon after I arrived in Cuba, Pearl Harbor was bombed. My first thought
was to go to the American Embassy and say, "Here I am. I want to enlist. I want
to fight against the Japanese and the Nazis." But my friends discouraged me,
00:40:00telling me the Americans wouldn't take anybody in Havana. After Pearl Harbor,
many, many friends arrived. There was a large group of refugees in Havana.
TRAYNHAM: You never made it to Ecuador. What happened?
ROSENKRANZ: The boat to Ecuador still hadn't arrived when Fulgencio Batista, who
was then the president of Cuba, decreed that all refugees could remain and work
in Cuba and have the same rights as citizens, except that they couldn't vote.
00:41:00Also, friends were telling me that I was crazy to want to go to Ecuador, that
Quito was terrible, and that I would never earn enough money to buy a ticket
back to Europe. I said, "Who the heck wants to go back to Europe? I certainly
don't." I was being pressured to go to the United States. But instead, I decided
to start work in Cuba. I went to the university and introduced myself. Despite
all my qualifications, I was told they weren't interested.
I must tell you, almost in parentheses, that in those days something very
00:42:00interesting happened in Havana. There were a couple of hundred refugees, many of
them Belgian and Dutch. These were people who were familiar with and employed in
the diamond industry. In wartime, all diamonds went for industrial purposes, not
to make jewelry. These refugees decided to build up a little business, and it
was incredible. They were earning thousands and thousands of dollars a week.
00:43:00They were practicing all three phases of diamond production: cleavage, cutting,
Incidentally, I met my future wife, Edith Stein, in Havana. She was also working
in the diamond business as an accountant, literally. She was counting the
diamonds, handing them out to people, and doing various other tasks.
TRAYNHAM: Is Edith also from Europe?
ROSENKRANZ: Yes, she was born in Vienna. By now almost everybody who was from
Europe was in the diamond business. The five who were not were two friends of
mine who are medical doctors, Claire and Robert Norton, who also came from
00:44:00Zurich. They live now in the States. Steve Kaufmann was number three, and Nick
Judovics number four. We refused to give up our professions. Later on, though,
Robert did start to work in the diamond industry.
Since the university wasn't interested, I went looking for work in private
companies. There were a couple of pharmaceutical firms in Cuba, and one large
laboratory called Vieta Plasencia. One of the owners was Dr. Angel Vieta, who
00:45:00was a brilliant person. He was the dean of the medical faculty at the university
and also the director of the Hospital Calixto Garcia, Havana's biggest hospital.
Vieta had several honorary degrees from Columbia University and goodness knows
where else. I went there to interview. I told Dr. Vieta that I would like to
work for him. He looked at me and said, "You see this laboratory? It's now
fifteen years old. It's the largest in Havana. For fifteen years I haven't had a
single chemist in my organization. Why should I hire one now?" I replied, "Dr.
Vieta, I won't convince you and you won't convince me. I am telling you that you
00:46:00need a chemist. You're telling me that you don't need a chemist. Well, give me a
chance and I'll show you." Luckily, he liked me and I started to work for him
for the glorious salary of twenty-five dollars per week.
TRAYNHAM: What did you do there?
ROSENKRANZ: I asked Dr. Vieta what he would like me to do for his pharmaceutical
firm. If he didn't have anything specific in mind, I told him, I would think of
something. He answered that that there was a lot of venereal disease in Cuba and
that there were few good treatments available. Salvarsan was passe and
penicillin hadn't been discovered yet. A Hungarian firm had produced an
oil-soluble bismuth preparation. Dr. Vieta said, "I would like to have for my
00:47:00laboratory an oil-soluble bismuth salt. Can you make one for me?" "Yeah, sure,"
I replied cockily. Now I had to come up with something, a new compound. I knew
what to do for the basic structure, I thought that maybe one end of the molecule
should be the active site for the bismuth salt. The other end should make the
compound fat-soluble. I decided to take an isoamyl malonic acid, hexyl
half-ester, and prepare its bismuth salt. It was lot of fun.
Now, rapidly, I was learning about pharmacology, toxicology and biochemistry.
[laughter] After I had synthesized the compound, we tested it on patients at the
00:48:00hospital, Calixto Garcia. The product turned out to be fantastic. Vieta was
happy. After a couple of months, my salary rose to fifteen hundred dollars per
month. I also began to receive 15 percent of the profits on the products I
developed for Vieta. I came up with a number of other compounds. One was a
potent analgesic cocktail. It's still being used in Cuba as a non-habit forming
00:49:00substitute for morphine.
Word of what I was doing got back to the university, and its officials
approached me, "Would you like to work with us?" "You didn't want me before."
"That was a mistake. Would you like to have a teaching position?" "No. I don't
want to give classes. But I'll tell you what I'm willing to do. If you will send
me a couple of people for their doctoral thesis, they can work with me and learn
how to do research in the lab. That I will accept." I became an assistant
professor without any lecturing duties. About twenty students came to work with
00:50:00me. Two of them became very famous. The first was Ernesto Eliel, who became
professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and
eventually president of the American Chemical Society [ACS]. The second was a
brilliant Cuban chemist, Fausto Ramirez. He also became a professor at Columbia
University, but was killed in an automobile accident. For many years, Eliel and
Ramirez would send postcards to me at Syntex signed: "Happy Holidays from your
favorite dishwashers." [laughter]
TRAYNHAM: What happened to the colleagues you traveled with from Spain?
00:51:00ROSENKRANZ: Steve Kaufmann and I started to do some extraordinary things in
Cuba, apart from my work at the pharmaceutical firm. First, we organized a
collection of seashells for export to the United States in order to make
necklaces. Then I began making vitamin A by molecular distillation. Steve and I
organized the shark fishermen to collect shark livers for producing vitamin A.
Then Steve began isolating caffeine from the roasting of coffee beans. We
00:52:00scraped the sublimates off the chimney walls and recrystallized it, obtaining
practically pure caffeine.
[In the audio recording, the two stories in this paragraph are told in the
I did a number of other odd things. Before the War, Cuba had packaged cigars in
nice aluminum casings. However, aluminum was needed for the war effort, so I
developed a wood wrapping for the cigars. I had to figure out the curve of water
00:53:00loss in cigars in order to create an adequate wrapping. I also designed a
dehydration plant to process guava fruit, which was shipped to American
servicemen as part of their meal packs. I did a lot of odd chemical testing,
too. One time, I was called by a large insurance company that was stuck with
crocodile hides from Argentina that had spoiled in transit by ship. The question
was: had the hides spoiled because poor packaging had allowed salt water to seep
in, or had some other type of damage occurred during the ship journey? It
occurred to me that if ocean salt were the culprit, the hides should contain
00:54:00iodine. I had set up an analytical lab in Vieta Plasencia, and I carried out an
iodine analysis and found iodine. It was salt-water damage. A side result was
that Edith got a beautiful crocodile-hide handbag from my expertise. [laughter]
In another very funny incident, a man came to me and said, "My wife is killing
me!" "How come?" "Well, with voodoo, my wife is killing me. She is putting a
substance under my pillow every night, could you analyze it for me?" " Do you
have it?" "Yes. Here it is." It was sodium bicarbonate. [laughter] I said,
"Listen, my good friend. She is not poisoning you with voodoo or anything else.
00:55:00Go back and sleep."
TRAYNHAM: What else was going on in your laboratory?
ROSENKRANZ: I started a program looking at Cuba's natural products. I knew about
hormones and I knew about yams, of which there are many on the island. I was
trying to find the raw material for producing hormones using the method of
Russell Marker. It turned out that all these yams were edible, and obviously
didn't contain the necessary saponins or sapogenins. They only contained
00:56:00sitosterols. That was no good for manufacturing hormones, but we had a nice
survey for publication.
Then I ordered some zarzaparrilla root from Mexico. I carried out the
extraction, isolated the saponin and sapogenin, and tried to repeat Marker's
making of progesterone and testosterone, with more or less success. [This
section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning around
0:57:31] Working in Cuba was hard because it was wartime, and there were no raw
materials for synthesis. We only had benzene, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric
acid. Imagine, I had to make my own ether from alcohol! I trained the eight or
ten thesis students I had, and I learned how to work with my employees. This was
a great experience for me, but it was frustrating not to have the right
By this time, I was corresponding with Ruzicka, and I was telling him how
difficult it was to work in Cuba, and that my education at the ETH wasn't good
for this type of life. I tried to perform large-scale chemical production, but I
didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know enough about production equipment
and I complained that the Poly hadn't prepared me well for this kind of life. He
replied that no one told me to have this type of life. [laughter] Things were a
bit frustrating on the personal front too about then. [Audio recording resumes
here, beginning around 0:56:26] As I mentioned, I met my wife, Edith, in Cuba.
It was love at first sight, and I asked her to marry me. However, some three
00:57:00years later, she still hadn't decided.
TRAYNHAM: You eventually left Cuba. How did that come about?
ROSENKRANZ: One day in 1945, I got a call from some Hungarians who were visiting
00:58:00in Cuba and were connected with a Mexican pharmaceutical firm, Hormona. [Audio
jumps back to text earlier in the transcript, see notation for audio beginning
around 0:57:31] They wondered whether I would like to go to Mexico for an
interview. Being an adventurous soul, I accepted. However, I couldn't fly
00:59:00directly there on Pan Am, as I was classified as an enemy alien. I had to take
Taca Airlines through Central America first, and then fly to Mexico from there.
On the first day of my visit, I was taken to Syntex, an affiliate of Hormona
that had been set up in 1944 by Hormona's owner, Emeric Somlo, and Russell
Marker, the organic chemist from the University of Pennsylvania, to synthesize
sex hormones. The people there gave me a lab coat and said, "Look, we're making
hormones; we're making progesterone. We are stuck because we can't run the
oxidation from pregnenolone to progesterone." It turned out that Marker had left
to form his own company. "Can you run the Oppenauer oxidation?" I shrugged my
shoulders; any organic chemist worth his salt can do the Oppenauer oxidation.
01:00:00Then they told me that they couldn't make the catalyst, aluminum isopropylate. I
couldn't understand why. They explained that Marker had painted all the windows
white so nobody could see what he was doing. He'd also labeled all the reagents
with code names, and nobody knew the code. They were confused. Moreover, there's
a trick to making aluminum isopropylate that they weren't aware of. To create
the reaction, you have to first amalgamate the aluminum strips with mercuric
chloride before putting them into the isopropyl alcohol. I did that; I ran the
oxidation and I turned pregnenolone into progesterone. People were looking at me
01:01:00like I was Houdini. Immediately, they made me an offer to come to Mexico and
work for Syntex.
I should give you some background here. Syntex was one of several
01:02:00Hormona-affiliated companies that Dr. Somlo, a Hungarian, had started. (Another
was Triarsan, which produced arsenicals against syphilis, and which had as its
chief chemist Professor Francisco Giral, the son of the former president of the
Spanish Republic.) In Mexico in those days, if you started a new company, you
could get a complete tax exemption for ten years.
Within months of setting up Syntex, however, Somlo and Marker had a fight, and
Marker left. This wasn't really out of character for Marker, because he had had
01:03:00several fights before. He was a brilliant chemist, but a very difficult person.
He had a sort of persecution complex, and couldn't get along with anybody. At
the time of my interview, Syntex was about three hundred thousand dollars in the
red. But if the company could produce progesterone efficiently, it was sure to
turn a profit. The hormone was then selling for around a hundred eight dollars
Syntex's offer came at the right time. I had had enough of Cuba. There was no
big future there, because there were no raw materials, nothing to build on.
Also, living on an island, you get this island complex. You can't go anywhere
because there is water all around. It is a well-known factor. You find it in
01:04:00people who live in the Bahamas or Bermuda, and so on. I negotiated a deal with
Syntex in which I would get the same kind of salary that I was getting in Cuba,
which was by that time about seventy thousand dollars a year plus 15 percent of
the profits on the products that I developed.
I called Edith, who was still my "potential" fiancee. I told her, "I have
accepted a job here. Will you marry me, or not? [laughter] Because I am going."
01:05:00Well, she finally said yes. I got back to Havana and told Vieta I was leaving.
He tried to dissuade me, saying. "Don't leave, George. The Mexican offer is
useless. I'll give you half the laboratory to stay here with me." He continued
for quite some time, but I said, "No, thank you very much. I cannot do that."
This was my adventurous soul talking. There was no big future in Cuba, so I
left. [Fidel] Castro wasn't even on the horizon in those days, so he didn't
figure into my decision.
In 1945, Edith and I were married, we moved to Mexico, and I started to work for Syntex.
TRAYNHAM: What did you do first at Syntex?
ROSENKRANZ: First of all, I did the progesterone synthesis. As I said, the
workers knew what to do, but they didn't have the reagents. I started with
01:06:00twelve people: one chemist, eight lab assistants--all women--and three men to do
the heavy job of carrying around things. After progesterone, I began work on
other sex hormones. We had to. By the time I arrived in Mexico about six months
after my interview, the price of progesterone had dropped to eighty dollars per
gram. Two months after I began working at Syntex, it was down to eighteen
dollars per gram.
TRAYNHAM: What brought about that drop in price? Was it the production in
Syntex, or was it other production?
01:07:00ROSENKRANZ: No, it wasn't the production at Syntex. It had been so scarce at the
beginning, but bigger quantities were now becoming available. For one thing,
Marker had opened another company, literally across from Syntex, that made
progesterone, too. Instead of dealing in single grams, progesterone could be
produced in tens, or even hundreds of grams, so the price dropped. The price of
testosterone, which Marker never made at Syntex, was around thirty-three dollars
per gram. That price held up better because there was no efficient method of
making big quantities of testosterone.
Testosterone synthesis is interesting because it seemed that it was impossible
to make this hormone from yams. I developed the first industrially significant
01:08:00synthesis from the diosgenin derived from the yam, because I recognized that
there's a suitable intermediate during the degradation of the sapogenin side
chain. We started by producing diosgenin from dioscine, which is the saponin
that occurs in the barbasco, the wild yam of Mexico. During the degradation of
the spiroketal side chain, you get 16-dehydro-pregnenolone. Now, in this
compound you selectively hydrogenate the double bond at 16, then you oxidize the
--OH group at 3. The final product is progesterone. Eventually I worked out a
method, preparing the oxime of the alpha-beta unsaturated ketone at 20, to carry
01:09:00out a Beckman rearrangement. In this way, you obtain the19 ketone, taking off
the side chain in the process.
We worked very hard and for a long time on this approach. The problem was
achieving reasonable yields. I got really disappointed and upset but eventually
we succeeded. After we had finally made the first ton of dehydro-isoandrosterone
[dehydroepi-androsterone] DHEA, one of my coworkers, Dr. Juan Berlin, who
unfortunately died many years ago, presented me with a diploma. It read: "Famous
words of a great scientist: The Beckman rearrangement is not a steroid
01:10:00reaction." [laughter] Next I started to work out different methods for the
large-scale production of the other sex hormones.
TRAYNHAM: What were some of the difficulties you encountered and how did you
ROSENKRANZ: The biggest problem came with synthesizing estrogens from our
intermediate. Progesterone and all the derivatives could be made easily from
this compound, but estrone was different.
I was scanning the literature all the time of course, and in 1948, I came across
the name of Carl Djerassi. He was working in Wisconsin, doing dienone-phenol
rearrangements in unsaturated steroids. I felt that maybe I should hire this
guy. I telephoned him, inviting him to Mexico. You will find in Djerassi's book,
01:11:00The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas Horse, a description of our first
encounter. When he visited, he saw on the patio where
we had a big stack of extraction vats, a small machine that kept shaking,
performing a catalytic hydrogenation in the sunshine. Djerassi wrote that he was
most impressed by operation's simplicity. Also, he liked what we were doing and
how we were doing it. Last but not least, he liked me. So, he accepted a
position, becoming the first of my imported stars.
[This section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning
TRAYNHAM: You've attracted other stars as well.
ROSENKRANZ: My next crucial hire was Alex [Alejandro] Zaffaroni. We had been
corresponding since 1949 when Alex requested some of our steroid for his
brilliant research in paper chromatography. We met finally at the Laurentian
Hormone Conferences in 1950. It was incredible empathy and chemistry at first
sight, and we developed a deep friendship that has continued through our lives.
In fact, all of us at Syntex acted as if we were a big family. We mixed science
with movies and parties.
[Audio recording resumes here, beginning around 1:11:31]
In the lab we tackled the estrogen synthesis. It was known that during the War
the Germans had made estrogen synthetically. Basically, you have to get rid of
the angular methyl group between ring A and ring B, and aromatize the A ring.
Alejandro Zaffaroni monitored the pyrolysis of the precursor using a method we
01:12:00worked out together. A year or two after I left Cuba, I brought Steve
Kaufmann--who had taken my place at Vieta Plasencia--to Mexico to join us at Syntex.
Here we come to a very important point. I found in Mexico the same kind of
situation that we had experienced in Havana. There were no really good
laboratory or research scientists in Mexico because there was no chemical
01:13:00industry except for petroleum. University students who were taught chemistry
were trained to become teachers. Nobody had any laboratory experience. I started
a Ph.D. program. Later, Carl Djerassi joined me and we continued training people
in lab work and doing research. Strangely, Mexicans with only a high-school
education have a knack for laboratory work. Our staff learned to do with ease
01:14:00chromatography, then more difficult chemical techniques; it was incredible. They
just picked it up. We developed a method of "working with few heads and many
hands," as Djerassi called it.
Also, I was hiring more chemists. There was one Mexican chemist, Octavio
Mancera, who had been working with Sir Robert Robinson in England for his
post-doctorate. I brought in Jose Iriarte, also from Mexico, who was a student
of Henry Gilman, a famous Iowa professor who was working on catalytic reactions.
01:15:00Jesus Romo, Enrique Batres, Luis Miramontes, and Juan Pataki were others who
made important contributions as well as Rosa Jashin, Mercedes Velasco, Irma
Schroeder, and Tere Cardenas. Slowly we built a great team.
TRAYNHAM: Tell us about one of Syntex's stellar successes, the synthesis of cortisone.
ROSENKRANZ: Right smack as I was building the company and finishing the
industrial synthesis of all the hormones, the big corticoid race started. Every
institution--European pharmaceutical companies, U.S. chemical companies, and
universities like Harvard--was very involved. Everybody was trying to achieve
the industrial synthesis of cortisone because cortisone promised to be a wonder
drug. It was even featured in a movie: a girl who couldn't walk because she had
arthritis took a couple of milligrams of cortisone and suddenly could stand up
Using outstanding Mexican and foreign chemists and with the help of brilliant
outside consultants like Gilbert Stork, our research efforts were crowned with
immense success. Our winning performance in the cortisone race and in the
subsequent development of the "Pill" were noticed worldwide and became the
talking point of several prestigious magazines like Fortune, Time, and others.
Our scientific efforts suddenly brought Mexico universal interest and recognition.
01:17:00[Material from the audio recording was either not transcribed, or is transcribed
01:29:00at other places in the interview transcript, from 1:16:59-1:31:48]
[This paragraph of written material is not mentioned in the audio recording]
This is not the place to discuss details of the race to produce cortisone or the
subsequent development of the Pill, many of which can be found in Carl
Djerassi's autobiography, Steroids Made It Possible.
The dedication he inscribed on my copy of his book reads: "GRMIP (the true
title) for one of my oldest friends, George, with deep affection." If you
haven't guessed, GRMIP stands for: George Rosenkranz Made It Possible. Thanks,
Carl, for your friendship and the many unforgettable years of shared experience
and reciprocal inspiration.
[This section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning
One event that isn't well known occurred one Sunday morning when Carl and I went
to the laboratory. By that time in the cortisone race, we had made
dihydroallocortisone from diosgenin. That Sunday we brominated this compound and
we got the 2-4 dibromoderivative. I cooked this up with collidine to get rid of
the bromine. We thought we'd get cortisone, the delta 4-3 ketone. Actually, what
we got was a mix of prednisone and cortisone. Thus Carl and I invented
prednisone, and there was a patent issued on this later. Schering Plough filed a
patent interference, but we won. Because of this invention of ours, Schering had
to pay a royalty to Syntex for years on the sale of prednisone.
Carl was a great theoretical chemist, but he wasn't as good in the laboratory as
maybe many of my colleagues were. Perhaps this was the result of our different
background in schools. The Zurich school was famous. As you have been there, you
know how well those people worked in the lab. I don't know how it is now.
Nowadays, there seems to be a lot of theoretical chemistry that is being done there.
[This section of the transcript occurs later in the audio recording, beginning
TRAYNHAM: What was the life like during those years?
ROSENKRANZ: Those were the glorious days of science and top-level chemistry. We
went to many symposia: the Laurentian, the Gordon conferences. In the evenings
at the Gordon meetings, there was always a social gathering. Bill Johnson and I
used to play the piano fourhanded, mostly boogie-woogie. Bob Woodward came
along, he grabbed me and I sat on his shoulders. He was a big tall guy and I
said to him, "You know, Bob I rode many, many things in my life. I rode mules, I
rode horses, I rode buses, I rode cars, I rode bikes, but I never rode a
[Audio recording resumes here, beginning around 1:31:48.]
TRAYNHAM: There was a crucial turning point in Syntex's history when the company
became a pharmaceutical firm. How did that come about?
01:32:00ROSENKRANZ: Syntex was a firm that was doing original chemistry research and
making chemical intermediates for others like Squibb [Bristol-Myers Squibb],
Upjohn [Pharmacia-Upjohn], Pfizer, etc. We were in the pharmaceutical business
but we weren't selling the pharmaceuticals ourselves.
How did Syntex become a pharmaceutical firm? It's a complicated story. One of
the indirect factors that led to the change was an antitrust suit. U.S.
pharmaceutical firms wanted to import huge quantities of barbasco root in order
to manufacture steroids domestically. Through our efforts steroids had become
Mexico's fifth-largest export, and naturally the government didn't like this
01:33:00idea. They put an export ban on the root, whereupon a couple of American
pharmaceutical companies filed an antitrust suit against Syntex. Although Syntex
was a Mexican company, it had a small subsidiary in New York, which was a
chemical-specialties company exporting some minor stuff. The American government
claimed jurisdiction over Syntex through the subsidiary. While we were dealing
with the antitrust suit Charles Allen came along.
He was a very famous investment banker with an excellent nose for everything.
Eventually, the Allen interests bought Syntex under the condition that I become
01:34:00the president and CEO and Alejandro Zaffaroni, vice-president. Djerassi had
already moved on to Wayne State University. Together with Alex, I made the
biggest decision in the history of Syntex. We recognized that we were heavily
involved in research. Our people were working and turning out new compounds, but
we were selling intermediates to pharmaceutical companies. We opted to switch
01:35:00the focus of the company from making steroid intermediates to manufacturing
pharmaceuticals. I must add that the prices of hormones were declining further.
All kinds of manufacturing technologies were being developed and making steroid
intermediates wasn't a big business any longer. So, either we had to vegetate
and not do any significant research, or we had to keep the research and become a
pharmaceutical company. Both Alex and I were lovers of research. By now we had
many accomplished scientists working for us, including many Mexicans. Carl was
01:36:00sending us a number of his postdocs as well. We had chemists like Howard J.
Ringold, Franz Sondheimer, Bert Bowers, Ricardo Villotti, John Edwards, John
Zderic, and a number of other excellent scientists turning out very important research.
Once the decision was made to become a pharmaceutical firm, I brought Carl back
to Syntex. The collaboration between the three of us was an absolutely unique
constellation. It was such a powerful driving force. Each of us assumed a role
01:37:00that wasn't his original one. In this triumvirate, everybody had ideas, and very
often, conflicting ideas, of what to do. Carl was wishing the research to go in
one direction, then in another. Alex was quiet, but firm; he already had some
business and technology knowledge, and he was always receptive to new
technologies and ideas. I was the same, but I became the moderator and
coordinator in all these matters. In my opinion, this was the most powerful
01:38:00combination that existed in this industry at that time. Later on, other things
happened, and I'll talk about them.
TRAYNHAM: With your new and heavier responsibilities, did you have time to do
any laboratory research yourself?
ROSENKRANZ: At that time I was so involved with the other aspects of the
business that I was forced to turn away from working in the laboratory, yet I
still followed what was happening. You know, I believe that in the life of a
chemist there are two major turning points: one, when he decides to leave
academia's pure, pristine research and go into industry; the second, when he is
01:39:00in industry and must decide whether to become an executive or stay with
research. These can be very difficult decisions. The first wasn't difficult for
me because I was thrown into industry. But the second was a hard challenge.
I haven't mentioned to you that I was always very interested in psychology. I
love people. Professor Carl G. Jung was in Zurich while I was there. For three
years, I attended his lectures. Much of his time was spent analyzing a single
dream. He said, "The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost secret
recesses of the soul." His talks and his entire way of looking at events and
human interactions had a deep impact on me. I remember his saying, "Knowledge
rests not on truth alone but on error also." He made me think about what
01:40:00research is. Is it a quest for truth? Or is it solving problems? For me, problem
solving was always the most important thing. One type of problem solving is
resolving conflicts. That's where the human element comes in. Partly because I
was already in the role, and partly because I had absorbed so much of Jung's
theory, and partly because I have a deep fascination for human relationships, I
01:41:00took the road to be an executive. I had knowledge of managerial sciences and
setting up productive interpersonal frameworks. If someone came to me with a
good idea, I'd usually say, fine, let's do it. I was known for having an
open-door policy. Anybody could come to me and complain. I remember when one of
my dear friends and chemists dashed into my office, pounded on my desk, and
said, "Boss, you're completely wet! This is absolute idiocy what's going on
here." [laughter] I laughed and replied, "Now, what's the matter, John. Tell me,
what's the problem?" I didn't get upset. That is not the way most executives
01:42:00would react, but when you really love what you do, it is easier to stay calm.
TRAYNHAM: What steps did you have to take to transform Syntex into a
ROSENKRANZ: The first phase was what I called Operation Fence-Mending. I had to
repair the damage done by Somlo, who was a very strange person. He never made a
decision, and people got frustrated and offended. "You can't work with Syntex,"
was the byword. I had to go round the whole industry and convince them
otherwise. The next step was to peddle the contraceptive we had developed. I
01:43:00offered it to Parke-Davis, but officials said, "We won't touch the thing. There
are religious problems and so on. No, we won't touch it with a ten-foot pole."
Then I went to Upjohn, which we had been supplying with progesterone. I got
another, "No." This time it was the so-called NIH syndrome: not invented here
syndrome. [laughter] "We have it, we have it. We have our own synthesis of
progesterone derivatives. We are not interested." I went to Pfizer. In those
days, Pfizer had a president and an executive vice-president whose names I won't
mention, but they were important and successful executives. The executive
vice-president said, "Contraceptives? Progesterone? The market for this is only
one million dollars per year. We are not going to bother with this kind of
01:44:00market." Eventually, Ortho came along and we did it together.
Then I had to establish collaborations with Ciba, with Organon. We had a number
of new compounds, including many new steroids. Still, we couldn't sell them,
because of FDA [Food and Drug Administration] regulations and other factors.
Alex and I came up with a concept, which was the biggest hit for Syntex. We
01:45:00would go to a large pharmaceutical firm and offer it the compound. We would tell
the company that we could manufacture the compound, that we had proof of concept
and clinical evidence to back up what the drug could do. The company would have
to do only some phase-three testing and maybe some clinical and pharmacological
research. We offered to be a partner. We would not sell the drug to them on a
licensing basis. Instead, we asked what markup they would like to have--one to
01:46:00three, one to four--on our products? We didn't give them a selling price because
it's against the law in some places in the world. And after all, they were the
marketers. Syntex would get 30 percent of sales on average.
This was a completely new concept in the pharmaceutical industry. Alex and I
became famous for this no-royalty and no-fixed-price approach. I went around
making deals in each country with the largest pharmaceutical firms: in England
with ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries PLC], in France with Roussel [Aventis,
01:47:00Inc.] or a subsidiary of Roussel, in Germany with Grunenthal, in Italy with
Recordati. We built up a whole rainbow, a whole spectrum of distributors, with
whom we had these relations. My only condition was that the labels state "a
Syntex-ICI product" or a "Syntex-Recordati product," and so on. Overnight,
without one cent of investment, we built up worldwide distribution of our
pharmaceutical specialties. We also had a hook: our partners got first refusal
on the results of our new research. Why would they find this attractive? Because
01:48:00we were successful in basic research.
Then, of course, Syntex grew. Carl Djerassi went back to the U.S., this time to
Stanford [University], becoming a full professor. I forgot to tell you that
Syntex from the very beginning was registered as a Panamanian corporation. Even
in Somlo's time, there were some tax conveniences. Later on, this became a very
profitable device. Once we had built up a worldwide distribution network, we
went to establish ourselves in the U.S, in the San Francisco Bay area. We
founded Syntex Laboratories as an American corporation. As a consequence, we had
to have someone go to the United States--either Alex or myself. We were getting
01:49:00close to flipping a coin, but then I said, "Alex, you go." [laughter] Alex went,
becoming the president of Syntex Laboratories in the United States. He was there
for a number of years and our company grew. One day we started to think that
maybe we should expand beyond steroids into other fields.
TRAYNHAM: How did you accomplish this?
ROSENKRANZ: As usual, we went around getting the best people. We brought in
Joshua Lederberg, the Nobel Prize winner, and later on, E. J. Corey, followed by
other Nobel Prize winners in the medical areas. So, now we had chemical,
clinical and microbiological research, everything a pharmaceutical firm needs.
We started to become an integrated pharmaceutical company. Bert Bowers, a
chemist of first order, had joined us earlier, and I started to groom him as my
01:50:00possible successor in the organization. Then Alex brought in Alex Cross, who was
working with Derek Barton in England. We had lots of English chemists coming in.
Alex Zaffaroni realized that the system of delivering drugs wasn't right. He
said, "We have all these new compounds. They are all so active. They get into
the body, and only about one-hundredth of the active compound reaches the
target, because in the meantime the liver is metabolizing it. There has to be a
better way of doing things. We have to work on the delivery system." I said,
"Bravo, Alex! Go for it! That's what you should do." One day Alex came to me and
01:51:00said, "No, George, I cannot continue, because the people don't believe in my
ideas about the delivery system." I replied, "Come on now, what nonsense is
this? You're the president of research; you're the president of our company in
the United States. What is this? "I cannot make people work on something that
they don't believe in. I am going to leave Syntex and set up my own company."
"Alex, don't do it." "Yes, I will have to do it." Well, we worked out a formula.
We got 20 percent of Alza Corporation, which was the company he started. This
was done to avoid possible suits from Syntex stockholders. Later on, the Alza
01:52:00stock was distributed to our shareholders. Then I had to find a successor to
Alex; I chose Bert Bowers. Carl Djerassi became head of all research. I was
TRAYNHAM: Did any other expansions occur?
ROSENKRANZ: We got involved in ventures like Syva, a collaboration with Varian,
to develop organic molecules to act as superconductors. We set up Zoecon, with
Carl as President, to develop compounds to interrupt insect growth. [Material in
the audio recording was not transcribed, 1:52:36-1:53:42] When Syntex's research
director, Ralph Dorfman died, I hired John Fried. Research under him produced
01:54:00all these wonderful compounds: Naprosyn, Ticlid, Cytovene, Toradol.
This was the pay-off of my basic philosophy of getting the best people and not
being too concerned about what they cost. Give them the freedom to work, to
think. Get them the best coworkers and let them be happy! I believe in
participatory management. I don't believe in telling everyone the way it has to
go. This, of course, was not the European, Swiss, or English way, where
management directs from the top down to the bottom. As a matter of fact, even
01:55:00before the Japanese, I invented the bottom-up-to-the-top approach. Later on, the
Japanese were surprised to find that we had this operating process, though ours
wasn't as elaborate as theirs.
In a very friendly way, I made the final decision, but it came from calm
consultation and discussions. In the early days, Alex, Carl, and I hammered out
ideas with violent discussions at high decibels. Once in those days, my wife,
01:56:00Edith, came down from upstairs in our home and wanted to see if there were any
survivors left. [laughter] Finally, we all laughed our heads off at the way we
had been behaving. It was a slow but continuous transition from cocky, brilliant
amateurs to competent professionals. We were such brilliant amateurs, we had a
saying: "Why do it the normal way if we can do it differently?" I mean, we were
accused of thinking that way. We seemed to want to reinvent everything from A to
Z. Then later on, we were doing the clinical research, finances, everything.
Then, even later, I started slowly to gather a couple of specialists in each
01:57:00section, and organized the business, as it should be.
TRAYNHAM: It became more conventional?
ROSENKRANZ: No, it did not become more conventional, in one sense at least. But
first let me finish the story of how Syntex was sold to Roche, and then we can
talk about that. Syntex became the outstanding company in the Bay area, and we
were different. Everybody characterized Syntex as a "nice" company. We kept our
word, we were good partners, we worked quickly, we did good research, and we had
brilliant people. We achieved something, becoming a "somebody" in the
pharmaceutical industry from a "complete unknown" or "south-of-the-border"
01:58:00nobody. I think we became the eleventh-largest pharmaceutical company. This was
all based on a philosophy of excellence and easing human relations. Give people
what they want; let them have peace of mind; let them concentrate on their work;
try to take away all their outside stress. Of course, sometimes a researcher
came to me and said, "Upjohn published before me. Here I am in the middle of
some research, but look at the Journal of the American Chemical Society." I
would say, "That is life," this happens, but that next time he would be first.
01:59:00Incidentally, I am a rather modest person. I am not interested in the limelight
or publicity. One thing however, of which I am proud is that together with my
colleagues, we advanced steroid chemistry in the 1950s by ten years, just by our
publication policy. We had a very simple policy: patent and publish. By that, we
gave the stockholders what they were entitled to, and our researchers what they
needed--publication and peer recognition. The other pharmaceutical
companies----particularly the European ones, where secrecy is such an important
thing, and U.S. companies also--eventually were forced into this position of
02:00:00allowing their scientists to publish because if they didn't, there would have
been a palace revolution by their own people. They would have pointed to us:
"Look at Syntex, all the research they are doing, and they're publishing the
results. Here we are doing the same thing, and we have to keep it in our
drawers?" They had to publish, and this was to the benefit of both the whole
scientific community and the field of chemistry. I am proud of that achievement.
Cortisone, the Pill, and other things that I did in my life were okay, but the
human contribution that I made to the growth of science and Syntex were more
02:01:00important to me.
TRAYNHAM: What caused Syntex to fall from the heights it achieved?
ROSENKRANZ: In 1982, I retired as chairman of the board and president and CEO,
and Bert Bowers, whom I had picked as my successor, took my place. I remained on
02:02:00the board as founding chairman. My policy was never to second-guess my
executives during my time as CEO, and I didn't want to do that as a board
member. I told Bert, "Okay, this is now your game, and I'm going to give you
absolute support as long as your policies coincide with my conscience and
philosophies. It will be easy for me because, having been on one side of the
fence, now I'm on the other side. I think it will be good for the company, good
for the stockholders, good for you, good for the employees, and I hope also good
Syntex kept on growing. Bert Bowers did an outstanding job. He was different
from me because my orientation was more internal. I was trying to grow the
02:03:00company from the inside by constantly adding excellent people. Bert was very
much interested in getting outside recognition for Syntex. He became president
of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. We went through a period of
acquisitions, some good, and some bad. Well, that's the name of the game.
Research was blooming; new products were coming forth. We became a major
marketing force. Unfortunately, Bert wasn't well. I remember during his early
years in Mexico, I had to rush him to a hospital because he had some bleeding
02:04:00and needed a blood transfusion. Later on, it turned out that he had a very
serious disease. He knew it all the time. I guess that is one explanation for
some of the things he did in his life. He knew that he had about ten years left,
and he had to compress everything, what he wanted to achieve and what could be
done, into that decade. We didn't know anything about it until near the end. One
of the big problems was that, while I had spent a considerable amount of time
training my successor after I had identified and chosen him, Bert didn't have
02:05:00time for this; he was so involved in managing the growth of Syntex. And
unfortunately, when he passed away, we didn't have a well-planned succession.
Bert recommended Paul Freiman, who was an excellent person. But this was new for
Syntex, because he came from the marketing side of the company.
Now, I always believed that to run a complex pharmaceutical company, you have to
have a scientific background. It doesn't matter whether it's engineering,
research or production, but you have to understand the science. I've always been
02:06:00proud of knowing about a lot of different things, maybe not in depth, but in
general. If somebody came to me and would tell me a story about some new great
discovery or invention I'd look at him, smile, and say, "Don't snow me. I don't
accept that." Now, that's very difficult to do for a person who comes, let's
say, from the accounting or financial or marketing side. He cannot easily
distinguish between the alternatives. If you are in such a position, you must
have a confidant who knows about all the things you do not and whom you can
trust 100 percent. That's difficult, because human nature is not like that.
Everybody has axes to grind; everybody has his own line and agenda.
02:07:00Bert and I, we were organic chemists. As such, we were proud that we could do
everything. Maybe not as well as other people, but [laughter] at least we
thought we could. In Freiman, Syntex had a CEO who was faced with learning
everything in a couple of years when we had spent decades learning it all. Here
was a big pharmaceutical company, with brilliant people in all domains, and he
was to run it.
02:08:00At the same time, pressure from Wall Street was mounting. At the beginning of
Syntex, we had had a price/earning multiple of infinity because we didn't have
any income; we had only assets. Later on, when the money started coming in, the
P became increasingly important. Syntex stock did an incredible job. It went up
and up, and it split so many times. The mentality of Wall Street started to
change simultaneously with our growth. Financial analysts became concerned about
the performance of companies by quarter. I told them a hundred times, and Bert
told them a hundred times, that you can't measure a pharmaceutical company on a
quarter-by-quarter basis. But they were portfolio managers who gave reports on a
quarterly basis. This was a conflict that didn't do Syntex any good. Somehow the
02:09:00word went around Wall Street that Syntex's pipeline of new research wasn't as
rich as before. It was absolute baloney. The stock came under pressure; the
price went down. Unfortunately, Charles Allen, who believed in us, and who
supported us to the last moment, died. We didn't have the support of the Allen
group to weather these things. Also, the Allen group got concerned that as the
stock went down, it would go down further. There was a continuous pressure on us
to sell the company.
02:10:00Roche had courted Syntex for about fifteen years, but Bert and I had never
wanted to sell the company. But watching the stock price come down, the chief
stockholders and their friends became nervous, and didn't believe in the promise
of our new products. Finally Roche made an offer, which was at that time
sensational for the stockholders, and the company was sold for 5.3 billion
dollars in 1995. If you remember, when I joined Syntex, it was three hundred
thousand dollars in the hole. I was able to take the company from that to a
value of 5.3 billion dollars. For the stockholders, it was marvelous. For the
employees, it wasn't so good, unfortunately, although we had all the provisions
02:11:00for compensation and benefits. The philosophies of a European company--or, for
that matter, maybe for all large pharmaceutical companies--are quite different
from the philosophies I believe in and built on. Roche integrated Syntex into
their way of doing things, their way of thinking, their way of managing. As a
02:12:00consequence, Roche lost a tremendously large percentage of the excellent people
I had gathered over the years, because Roche couldn't give them the kind of
security that they had felt at Syntex.
This is a very interesting phenomenon, because if you look at the people who
were formerly my stars, they are now CEOs or presidents or presidents of
research of Bay-area biotech companies. It is like a university with its alumni.
They are all around, and we get together. I heard something recently that nearly
02:13:00brought tears to my eyes. Two of my former people were reminiscing about the
good old days at Syntex. They agreed, "Syntex was like Camelot." That was our
way. We were a really nice company, giving everybody a possibility for
self-realization and harmonizing personal goals with achievements for the
company, for the stockholders, for the whole health field, for humanity. I think
this was the greatest thing. Now, I'm not saying that my way was better than
02:14:00other ways. Who am I to say that? One person has one philosophy, and that's it.
Syntex continues within Roche. In research, they have made some interesting
achievements in transplants, which were based on our earlier findings. The drug
Cellcept, which we developed, is on the market. There are other products, which
have been developed further and launched. A splinter group remains in Palo Alto,
which is now called Roche Bioscience. They are doing research; they are working
very well. I would say about half of the people who were present originally
dispersed in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the world, in Europe, and are making
02:15:00TRAYNHAM: The remarkable story of Syntex took place in Mexico. Do you think
there was something unique about the situation there that enabled this to occur?
Or could it have occurred at the same time elsewhere?
ROSENKRANZ: Well, I have often been asked that question. My answer has always
been that you need luck. And what is luck? You have to be at the right place at
the right moment, with the right people--that is luck. We were in Mexico, we had
the raw material, and there we got this fantastic constellation of people. There
02:16:00was the idea behind it. There was the motive behind it. Maybe it could have
taken place somewhere else. Certainly the question of the raw material was very
important. I think Syntex would have taken a completely different track if it
had been in the United States. We would have worked under different
circumstances, and maybe would have gone in a different direction.
TRAYNHAM: Now tell me about your family. How did you balance work with family?
ROSENKRANZ: Well, in my life the family stands in first place. It comes before
work and before science. I have a wonderful wife. We are now married for more
02:17:00than fifty years. We have three outstanding children. We raised them to be the
best. I have always thought that education comes first. Having gone through so
many upheavals in my life, I told them that the only important thing is what you
have in your head; you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Money doesn't
mean anything. Money can be here today, disappearing tomorrow. I have seen that
happen again and again. What does money buy you? "The only thing of value that I
can give to you, my children, is the best education." They all went through the
best schools in Mexico, they all went to Stanford, they all graduated from
02:18:00Stanford, and they are all different.
Our oldest son, Roberto, received his Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology at
the University of California, Davis. Then he took a postdoctoral fellowship in
the Department of Medicine at Stanford University under the direction of Dr.
Kenneth Melmon, Dean of the Medical School. Then in 1982, John Fried hired him
behind my back and against my will to work in Syntex Research in pharmacology.
While working in research he completed an MBA at the University of Santa Clara.
After nine years in Syntex research, he took on different positions of
increasing responsibility in management occupying senior positions in new
product development, marketing, sales strategy and business development. As the
health care system in the U.S. changed, Roberto moved into managed care to find
novel strategies for marketing and selling pharmaceutical products to the
02:19:00different health care organizations. He has been innovative and successful in
his approaches. Finally, when Roche took over, Roberto was the most senior
person from Syntex Laboratories who remained with them, accepting the position
of Business Unit Director for Northern California/Nevada. Roche has, I think,
twenty directors in the country. Roberto had over fifty people reporting to him,
and was managing about a hundred twenty million dollars in sales, among other
things. In November 1996, he became President and Chief Operating Officer of a
02:20:00biotechnology firm in the Bay area. He is a fantastic sportsman, like his whole
family. He is married to a lovely American girl, Heather. They have three
children, Tamara, Adrian, and Monica. They are a wonderful, loving family.
02:21:00Our second son is Gerardo--Jerry. He attended Stanford University where he
earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and graduate degrees in
a joint program between the Department of Electrical Engineering and the School
of Business Administration. Upon graduating from Stanford, Jerry joined a
start-up company, Telenet, which went public, was acquired by GTE, and
ultimately became Sprint International. During his ten years with the company,
Jerry held senior-executive positions in management, global business
02:22:00development, and international sales. Jerry was always fascinated by new
technological innovations and ultimately founded his own company, Ventech
International. Ventech was established to provide business development services
to venture capital backed, early stage technology companies. He also married a
very nice American girl, Lauren, and has two sweet children, Lily and Tommy.
Our youngest son is Ricardo. He graduated from Stanford University and the
Cornell Medical School. He is married to a wonderful Mexican girl, Laura, the
02:23:00daughter of an illustrious Mexican doctor's family, and they have one child,
Alejandro. They live in Chicago where Ricardo is a neonatologist at Northwestern
University Hospital. He is taking courses in public health policy, and also, as
with all my family, he is very interested in music. He plays the piano, he
02:24:00composes, and he has even produced a record.
Edith and I are very happy with how our children have developed. We hope that
they will lead very happy family lives. There's nothing to complain about there,
and I'm looking forward to the future.
As for myself, during my time in Syntex and after my retirement I have developed
a number of other interests. One of them is music; I play the piano. I am also
interested in art. Of course, bridge is a large part of my life. I have written
eleven books on bridge. I have won eleven U.S.
national championships, and probably over a hundred Mexican National
02:25:00championships. I have a column in the monthly magazine of the American Contract
Bridge League. I also write for French bridge magazines, two English ones, one
Italian, and one Swedish magazine. Bridge is very important to me. In sports, I
play tennis and golf, and I used to ski a lot.
Then, of course, there is the computer, which came into my life about ten years
ago. I am reasonably computer literate. Every morning on my computer, I get
information about what's going on in the world, in the pharmaceutical and in the
02:26:00biotechnological areas. After my retirement, I became more profoundly interested
in a number of scientific disciplines like immunology, genomics, and molecular
biology. They are all far away from my original training as an organic chemist.
As I told you before, I like to have a broad understanding of everything that is
I'm still very active in the sense that I'm on the board of directors of Digital
Gene Technology, which is in genomics. I am interested in venture capital,
constantly looking for different new ideas. Also I have a company in Mexico,
which is utterly my idea, and to describe fully would take much more time that
you can afford here. Basically, I'm trying to bring academic research and
02:27:00industry together in Mexico. I call myself, vulgarly, a "broker of science."
Other people say I'm a catalyst, but you know, it's just a question of
nomenclature and semantics.
My company ICT [Industria, Ciencia, Tecnologia] is trying to identify needs and
problems in industry and resolve them with help from academia. We try to find
the academic people who can do this and match them with industry. We make a
contract with A; we make a contract with B. The company makes a profit on this
02:28:00arrangement. We supervise, we monitor, and we try to solve their problems. The
batting average? Who knows? It's too new! I began ICT in 1996, and luckily, most
people feel it is a sensational idea. We are just trying to see how people
respond, whether we can do all the work. I am the president, but I have no
financial interest in the company. Any money we make that would be my share will
go to philanthropic purposes, mainly in science to reverse the brain drain and
try to bring Mexican scientists back to Mexico. I am the president of the
02:29:00science board, which includes such illustrious people as Alex Zaffaroni, Elias
J. Corey, Kenneth Melmon, and Dr. Guillermo Soberon, the former minister of
health and ex-dean of the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico].
Other current interests apart from my family and our grandchildren include a lot
02:30:00of travel. Also, I follow soccer and basketball [laughter], which is the latest
thing, as Ricardo lives in Chicago.
TRAYNHAM: Can you think of anything else that you want to add to make your story complete?
ROSENKRANZ: No, I think my story is complete. I'm very, very contented; I live a
very happy life. I've gone through many, many crises in my life that I didn't
02:31:00mention. My life at Syntex wasn't all milk and honey. As usual, there were
problems; there were ups and downs. With the help of my wife and family, I've
been able to weather all these adversities, all the conflicts. Basically, I'm an
optimist. I've an immense drive and thirst for everything that's new, for new
science, for new events, for new technologies. I wish I could live to see all
the things that are coming, which I guess is a common aspiration of most, maybe
all, people like me.
02:32:00TRAYNHAM: Maybe you should return to scientific endeavor to prolong life.
ROSENKRANZ: No. That was a different phase of my life. It was a great phase; it
was lovely to do that, but it is behind me. I think understanding science, using
science, combining different things in life that are science-related, which are
really maybe unusual and certainly innovative, that's more challenging.
Innovation is the word, whether it's just breakthrough or combination, association.
02:33:00TRAYNHAM: One question I would like to put to you is connected with The New York
Times Book Review. Each year, the editor of The New York Times Book Review
closes the year with a list of one hundred books that the editor believes to
have been the most significant books published that year. Among those included
in the list for 1996 was a book by the title, The End of Science, in which the
author expresses a conviction that all of the great discoveries in science have
been made, and that from now on science will just be diddling with details; that
there's no more expectation of really significant
02:34:00discoveries. What's your reaction to that point of view?
ROSENKRANZ: My reaction is it's absurd. Your question reminds me of something I
forgot to mention to you earlier. When I left Switzerland, and I said goodbye to
Ruzicka, he told me, "Rosenkranz, I wish you all the best. I know you're going
to do good things in your life. There is one thing, one bit of advice, that I
would leave you, which is: don't touch steroids with a ten-foot pole, because
everything that can be done has been done already." "Thank you, Herr Professor,"
I replied. Actually, he used the--do you speak German, or do you understand German?
TRAYNHAM: Ein bisschen [a little].
02:35:00ROSENKRANZ: Actually, he told me, "Rosenkranz, Lassen Sie die Steroide in Ruh,
alles ist schon abgegrast." [Rosenkranz, leave the steroids alone, everything
has already been grazed.] You know, like the cows that eat all the grass.
[laughter] My response to this is I came to Mexico; I became involved in
steroids, and look what happened. Cortisone appeared, and all the other drugs.
However, eventually I said, "Okay, everything has been done in steroids." And
nothing happened for ten years. What do I see now? The most startling thing is
that steroids are coming back.
For instance, there is one derivative of a triterpene, with which I have been
involved. It belongs to the family of triterpenes on which I did my thesis. It
seems to be active against melanoma. Now, I mean, this is such an absurd thing.
02:36:00How is it possible? How can these compounds have all this biological activity?
There is never an end. There is always something new that comes along. It's a
different view, a different invention. Look at molecular biology, or cloning.
02:37:00[Material from the audio recording was not transcribed, 2:36:27-2:39:58]
02:40:00[Material from this section of the audio recording was transcribed earlier in
the transcript. See notations in the transcript that correlate with 2:39:59,
2:42:18, 2:43:17, 2:44:49, and 2:45:32 in the audio recording]
[This section of the transcript occurs in the audio recording beginning around 2:47:22]
I'm particularly fascinated by genomics because I think that the future lies in
this discipline. All the pharmaceutical firms have discovered this too. We're
now mapping genes. Then we'll be looking more closely at molecular events, what
switches the genes on, what turns them off; and what happens when you chop them
02:48:00off, put them together. It's a whole new science. That goes to your question, to
your remark, that everything has been done. Never, will there be a moment when
everything has been done. It's not a question of the details. Fundamental
discoveries are going to come in the future and it will be just a wonder. I wish
I could wander along and look at Wonderland! [laughter]
[END OF INTERVIEW]
A note to the reader:
After receiving the transcript of my interview, it became clear to me that
considerable editing would be necessary in order to achieve fluidity of thought,
chronological accuracy, and ease of readability. Fortunately the oral history
editor of Chemical Heritage [Foundation] agreed with me, and I proceeded to take
advantage of this license. As more than three years have passed since this
interview was done, I decided to include a follow-up of the events of the last
Much to my regret, Syntex under the Roche aegis has nearly disappeared. However,
in Mexico, where everything originated, it continues to thrive (the name now is
Roche Syntex), receiving the well-deserved recognition in scientific,
governmental and public circles. In the U.S., the Syntex Alumni Association is
thriving with hundred of members. Syntex alumni have spread and are working in
many pharmaceutical companies as well as founding and consulting with start-up
biotechnology and genomic companies. One of the topics that were repeatedly
heard at their last meeting on February 5, 2000, was the importance of my
managerial philosophies, the success that these principles had brought to them
and their companies, and how they had imparted pieces of the Syntex culture all
over the industry. It gives me great pleasure to know that I have had a positive
impact on these people and that my philosophies that started fifty-five years
ago are going strong and are being passed on to new generations of scientists
I have added three more enterprises in the pharmaceutical sector to my
activities, acting as adviser to the CEOs. All in the United States, they do not
conflict with each other; on the contrary, I found unusual synergisms to the
benefit of the respective parties. Particularly exciting is my association with
PHERIN, a California enterprise dealing with the therapeutic application of
human pheromones. Interestingly all are sex specific steroids, active in
picogram quantities, and they show remarkable physiological activities. As a
matter of fact, their lead compound was first synthesized by Franz Sondheimer
and me in the 1950s.
My prediction about genomics has been fulfilled; they're now the center of
attention of the scientific and financial world
My interest in innovation continues, sometimes reflected in venture capital
activities, often with my dear friend Alex Zaffaroni. The passing of time has
only strengthened the bond between our families and us. My hobbies continue and
recently I was inducted into The Hall of Fame of Bridge. Our eldest son Roberto
is presently on the board of several companies, engages in venture capital,
investments, and recently formed his own startup pharmaceutical company: Roxro
As a natural extension of Ventech's activities, Jerry began co-investing with
several top venture capital funds and took an active role in helping the
portfolio companies grow. In some instances his role has been that of an angel
investor. For example, Jerry was the founding investor of StarMedia Network,
Inc., which became the first Internet Company targeting Latin America to
complete a very successful IPO in the United States. Jerry remains a Director of
StarMedia and sits on numerous other boards. He continues to invest in
early-stage Internet, telecommunications, information technology, and new media companies.
In the past couple of years, our son Ricardo, the pediatrician/neonatologist,
has taken a more serious interest in health services administration. He is the
Founder and CEO of Inovamed, a company developing an integrated health care
delivery system throughout Mexico that includes hospitals, outpatient clinics,
diagnostic laboratories, drug stores and managed care services. His vision is to
permit access to healthcare for as many Mexicans as possible. A new addition to
his family is our seventh grandchild, Ana Cecilia.
On the female side, my daughters-in-law continue to be charming mainstays of
their families. Our seven grandchildren Tamara, Adrian, Lili, Monica, Tommy,
Alejandro and Ana Cecilia see to it that their parents have their hands full.
My darling wife, Edith, with her deep love and understanding is the inspiration
of all of us. She is a tower of strength, making her presence felt with her
dedication to our whole family. To her goes my endless love and gratitude.