Gertrude Elion, 1918 - 1999
One of the trademarks of Elion's approach was the way she always used new compounds she synthesized as tools to find others. As she investigated the implications and metabolism of her drugs, she was often able to discover new and effective medications. Such was the case with her novel medication for gout. As she explored the metabolism of 6-MP in the effort to make its effects last longer, Burroughs Wellcome chemists created a compound that inhibited the enzyme that broke down the 6-MP. This new compound unfortunately did not prevent the negative side effects of 6-MP, but it did reduce the body's production of uric acid. Too much uric acid causes gout, which is not only extremely painful but can also be fatal. Given allopurinol, as the new compound was called, patients with gout watched their gouty deposits and the accompanying pain disappear with what seemed like miraculous suddenness.