History of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals

Photo #1: 1955 Letter to Dr AM Hubbard from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals regarding the shipment of 43 boxes of LSD ampuls. Later the same year, Hubbard provided Aldous Huxley with his first dose of LSD.
Photo #2: Sandoz Microbiological laboratory, courtesy of Novartis Global.
Photo #3: First Sandoz factory plant around 1890, courtesy of Novartis Global.

Related Reading:

"Sandoz Ltd., founded in 1886, has its main office in Basle, the second largest city in Switzerland and the centre of the Swiss chemical industry. It is the second largest chemical undertaking in Switzerland. The share capital is 60 million Swiss francs and the insurance value of the buildings and installations amounts to 315 million Swiss francs. The factory sites in and around Basle cover an area of 600 acres (1,998,000 square metres; over 4,300 people are employed on research, manufacture and administration in 172 buildings.
Research and manufacture carried out by Sandoz Ltd. comprise: dyestuffs and chemicals for the textile, leather, rubber and plastic industries; pharmaceutical products and alkaloids; and chemicals for agriculture. There are therefore three divisions in the firm: dyestuff, pharmaceutical and chemical.
The goods manufactured are exported to all parts of the world; some are manufactured in the firm's factories abroad; sales organisations have been set up in almost every country. In the middle of 1959 there were 25 affiliated companies and 5 jointly owned factories abroad. The Sandoz undertakings abroad employ 5,200 so that the total number of employees in the world organisation amounts to about 9,500." (p. 9)
"It was Dr. Alfred Kern (1850- 1893), an enterprising chemist from B├╝lach in Canton Zurich, who initiated the founding of the undertaking which is world-renowned today as Sandoz Ltd. In his early years Kern had made a great name for himself in synthesizing new dyestuffs. He spend some years gaining practical experience in Switzerland and abroad and then decided to found his own chemical firm. His partner and active colleague was Mr. Edouard Sandoz (1853 - 1928), a widely-travelled business-man with considerable experience in the dyestuff trade. Edouard Sandoz, who came from Le Locle and grew up in Basle, was a charming and successful man of business and formed a fitting counterpart to the brilliant chemist and organizer, Dr. Kern.
On 1st July 1886 the new undertaking started up under the name "Kern & Sandoz" with 10 workmen and a 12-horse-power steam engine. The brilliant talents and the whole-hearted cooperation of the partners soon led them from success osuccess, but in 1893, Alfred Kern died of heart disease when he was just 43 years old. Edouard Sandoz carried on the business under the name "Sandoz & Co." until 1895 when poor health lead him to form a limited company ("Chemical Works formerly Sandoz"). The business and technical management was handed over to a baord of directors. Edouard Sandoz died in 1928 but the family continued to be represented on the board of directors by two of his sons Aurele and Edouard Marcel. The latter is still one of the directors." (p. 12)
"It was during the First World War on October 1st 1917, that Professor Arthur Stoll started his life-work with Sandoz. This was the building up of the pharmaceutical division. Professor Stoll, who comes from Schinznach in Canton Aargau, had already won a great reputation, as a close associate of the Nobel prizewinner Richard Willst├Ątter, for research on chlorophyll and enzymes. The experience he had gained in dealing with delicate natural substances was to be put to good use in the field of industrial pharmaceutical chemistry. Within a few months, in March 1918, he had isolated ergotamine which is still one of the leading Sandoz preparations. This discovery of ergotamine deserves further mention for it is a typical example of research in pharmaceutical chemical.
Ergot of rye was known in the Middle Ages to be present in bread as an impurity and to cause epidemic convulsions or gangrene of the extremities. In the 16th century medicinal use was mad eof ergot to cause the uterus to contract. The early 19th century saw the commencement of efforts to isolate the active principles responsible for this effect but the substances obtained prior to 1917 - ergotinin and ergotoxin- did not fulfil expectations. Stoll applied his method of careful extraction to the task and isolated the first pure alkaloid of ergot- ergotamine. The first studies on animal organs yielded disappointing results but the investigations were continued until improved methods convncingly demonstrated that ergotamine was superior in effectiveness to the impure extracts of ergot.
Ergotamine was found to exert an excellent haemostatic effect on the human uterus but at first leading doctors refused to use it because of side-effects: the activity of the new substance had been under-estimated and the doses employed were too high. Further investigations with smaller doses clearly established the value of the product which was then marketed under the name "Gynergen". It soon became a major drug in obstetrics and later was found to be a specific agent for the treatment of migraine attacks. " (pp. 18 - 19)

- Sandoz Pharmaceutical Division , published by the Scientific Office of Sandoz Ltd.; Basle, Switzerland (1960)

Business Relationships

"The CIA ... expended considerable effort to monitor the latest developments in LSD research on a worldwide scale. Drug specialists funded by the Agency made periodic trips to Europe to confer with scientists and representatives of various pharmaceutical concerns, including, of course, Sandoz Laboratories. Initially, the Swiss firm provided LSD to investigators all over the world free of charge, in exchange for full access to their research data (CIA researches did not comply with this stipulation). By 1953 Sandoz had decided to deal directly with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which assumed a supervisory role in distributing LSD to American investigators from then on. It was a superb arrangement as far as the CIA was concerned, for the FDA went out of its way to assist the secret drug program. With the FDA as its junior partner, the CIA not only had ready access to supplies of LSD (which Sandoz marketed for awhile under the brand name Delysid) but was also able to keep a close eye on independent researchers in the USA.
The CIA would have been content to let the FDA act as an intermediary it its dealings with Sandoz, but business as usual was suspended when the Agency learned of an offer that could not be refused. Prompted by reports that large quantities of the drug were suddenly available, top-level CIA officials authorized the purchase of ten kilos of LSD from Sandoz at at estimated price of $240,000 - enough for a staggering one hundred million doses. A document dated November 16, 1953 , characterized the pending transaction as a "risky operation", but CIA officials felt it was necessary, if only to preclude any attempt the Communists might make to get their hands on the drug. What the CIA intended to do with such an incredible stash of acid was never made clear. "

-p. 26, In the Beginning There Was Madness... in Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain. Second Edition (1992)

"Within ten years [of the end of World War I], IG [Farben] had regained its place in foreign trade and within twenty years, at the outbreak of World War II, IG was at the center of the whole international cartel structure.
The first steps, and they were taken within only a few years, were loose alliances with Swiss and French dye makers. The three main Swiss concerns- Ciba, Sandoz, and Geigy- formed a cartel of their own in 1920, and soon afterwards reached a working agreement with IG. The bulk of the French dye business was in the hands of two concerns: Etablissement Kuhlmann (with its affiliate, St. Clair du Rhone) and the Societe des Matieres Colorantes de St. Denis.
By 1926 the French and Swiss firms were co-operating with IG under an oral agreement. There was a provisional written agreement between the Germans and French in 1927. And in 1929 relationships were crystallized into the Continental Dye Cartel. There were six parties to this cartel; three Swiss, two French and IG [Farben]. Together the six firms accounted for eighty per cent of the value of dyestuffs produced in the world in 1927. "

- p. 90- 91, The Quiet War in IG Farben by Richard Sasuly (1947)

Sandoz Factory
Sandoz Letter to Hubbard
Sandoz Laboratory