Formative Years

Industry Representation in Early AAI

by John S. Emrich
March 2015, pages 16–22

The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) benefits now, as at its founding, from the participation and contributions of researchers in academia, government, and industry. Although AAI members throughout the association’s 102-year history have been based largely in academia, a smaller, but significant, portion of members has worked in government and industry. All three member segments have provided leadership and vision shaping the association of today. In this article, AAI reflects upon the vital contributions of industry members in the organization’s first three decades—1913–1943.

These early members were scientists from for-profit, commercial institutions with research laboratories. Some worked in establishments for the medical treatment of people convalescing from a chronic illness and others were employed by pharmaceutical companies.

Of the original 52 AAI charter members in 1913, nine were employed by sanatoria or pharmaceutical companies, including Cragmor Sanatorium, H. K. Mulford Company, and Parke-Davis and Company. By 1943, at least 21 of the then 310 active members had spent at least some of their careers in industry at such companies as Lederle Laboratories, E. R. Squibb & Sons, and Eli Lilly & Company, to name a few.

Sanatorium Movement and AAI

Tuberculosis camp in Ottawa, Illinois, ca. 1908Tuberculosis camp in Ottawa, IL, ca. 1908
Library of Congress
In the nineteenth century, tuberculosis remained a leading cause of death in industrialized countries. The disease was, in fact, the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one out of every five deaths in the country from 1800–1870. The disease afflicted young and old, men and women, urban and rural, and rich and poor.

The German response to this centuries old scourge was to establish sanatoria predicated upon the importance of “fresh air, rest, good food, and regulated exercise.” The first was a private facility was opened by Hermann Brehmer in 1854 in the mountains of Silesia. Because some patients enjoyed dramatic improvement in this setting, the German government funded a number of public sanatoria (Volksheilstätten) in the 1870s. The ranks of public sanatoria quickly swelled as disability insurance funds became available to fund treatment for most tuberculosis.

Sanatorium in Lysin, Switzerland, ca. 1890Sanatorium in Lysin, Switzerland, ca. 1890
Library of Congress

The emerging U.S. public health movement, coupled with the growing progressive reform movements of the late nineteenth century made the United States fertile ground for sanatoria. Following New York physician Edward L. Trudeau’s opening of his Saranac Lake facility in 1884, a number of U.S. sanatoria were established, albeit with little consensus on effective therapies. The U.S. sanatoria evolved as three types based on three different funding models: public facilities owned and operated by local or state municipalities; privately funded, non-profit facilities with costs of patient care supported by charitable organizations such as workers’ unions or immigrant groups; and private, for-profit institutions to serve the wealthy who could afford to finance their own cutting-edge care. These sanatoria for the wealthy were among the first to have laboratories, although by the 1910s, most public sanatoria, Catawba Sanatorium in Virginia, for example, included at least a basic laboratory for research.

ALT TITLEGerald B. Webb, 1906
AAI Collection, UMBC
Two eminent tuberculosis researchers were among the early AAI members associated with private, for-profit tuberculosis sanatoria: the first president of AAI, Gerald B. Webb (AAI 1913, president 1913–15), and Karl von Ruck (AAI 1913). Webb lent his national renown as a tuberculosis physician and researcher to the emergence of Colorado Springs as a center for tuberculosis research and sanatoria. Having also helped craft the initial scope and membership of the association during the founding meetings, Webb became its first president.

Karl von RuckKarl von Ruck
Buncombe County Public Libraries
Karl von Ruck was founder of the Winyah Sanatorium (1888) and the von Ruck Research Laboratory for Tuberculosis (1895) in Asheville, North Carolina. With both of these institutions playing important roles in establishing that city as a haven for convalescence, the laboratory became a magnet for early-career researchers. Among others there, Jules Freund (AAI 1924, president 1955–56) and Louis Dienes (AAI 1924), became AAI members soon after their arrival at the von Ruck Laboratory. Both published their clinical and laboratory tuberculosis research in The Journal of Immunology (The JI).

Other sanatoria-based researchers among early AAI members included Amelia L. Gates (AAI 1913), Gates Sanitarium in San Jose, California; Francis M. Pottenger, Sr. (AAI 1913), Pottenger Sanatorium for Diseases of the Lungs and Throat in Monrovia, California; G. Burton Gilbert (AAI 1913), Laboratory of the Cragmor Sanatorium, in Colorado Springs; and Silvo von Ruck (AAI 1913), Winyah Sanatorium in Asheville, North Carolina.

Winyah Sanitarium, Ashville, North CarolinaWinyah Sanitarium, Ashville, NC
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Although Webb, as AAI president, held the highest office on the AAI masthead, many sanatoria scientists actively participated in annual meetings, nominated potential new members, and published much of their research in The Journal of Immunology, making The JI one of the leading repositories of literature on the understanding and treatment of tuberculosis, until the introduction of streptomycin and isonicotinic hydrazide brought the disease under control following the Second World War.

Biologics in Early Pharma

Bottle of diphtheria antitoxin, 1895Bottle of diphtheria antitoxin, 1895
National Library of Medicine
In the early twentieth century, the pharmaceutical industry was undergoing a phase of rapid expansion that coincided with the growth in biologics—and with the founding of AAI. Growth of the largest drug industry trade association provides a useful index to the growth in pharma. That group, the American Drug Manufacturers’ Association, was founded in 1912 with 29 companies, but within 10 years, the membership had expanded to 54 companies.

At the time AAI was founded, the expansion of pharmaceuticals was driven by three major currents from the late nineteenth century: the invention of the tableting machine, standardization of drugs by chemical assay, and the first successful use of diphtheria antitoxin and subsequent growth of biologics. Tableting machines ushered in mass production of medications. The use of chemical assays in laboratory testing enabled companies to verify their claims of drug purity. Third, Emil von Behring’s discovery of a successful diphtheria antitoxin in 1890 triggered drug manufacturers to enter biologics. Doing so required companies to construct commercial biological laboratories, prompting them either to hire highly trained researchers or associate with a trusted academic or medical institution to guarantee the quality of their products.

Extraction of diphtheria serum from horse blood, Marburg, Germany, c. 1895Extraction of diphtheria serum from horses, c. 1895
National Library of Medicine
As is the practice today, biomedical researchers moved frequently between academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Scientists commonly split their time equally between positions in industry and academia. Because little data exist on early AAI members’ institutional affiliations, it is difficult to determine the length of time an AAI member spent in a particular company. We do, however, know that AAI members who enjoyed some affiliation with the pharmaceutical industry during their careers made contributions, large and small, to shape the association during its formative years.

For example, E. C. L. Miller (AAI 1913) served on the first nominating committee and recruited three of his former colleagues from Parke-Davis, and John F. Anderson (AAI 1918), former director of the Hygienic Laboratory of the United States Public Service (redesignated the National Institutes of Health in 1930), director of the Research and Biological Laboratories, and vice president of E. R. Squibb & Sons, served on the Board of Editors of The JI (1916–35).

Two early members, Arthur F. Coca (AAI 1916) and A. Parker Hitchens (AAI 1913), both served as directors at two pharmaceutical companies and left an enduring legacy on the association.

Arthur F. CocaArthur F. Coca
AAI Collection, UMBC
Arthur Coca was the driving force behind the founding of The JI and served as its first and long-time editor-in-chief (1916–48), serving also on the Board of Editors (1916–19) and as an assistant editor (1948–52). It was Coca, who, as president of the New York Society of Serology and Hematology (SSH), laid the groundwork for a “Journal of Immunity” and in the spring of 1915, requested the cooperation of AAI in founding a journal for the burgeoning field of immunology. In the fall of 1915, delegations from AAI and SSH reached an agreement to jointly publish the new journal, The Journal of Immunology, and unanimously elected Coca as editor-in-chief. As editor-in-chief, Coca guided the journal through the tumultuous editorial and financial problems of its first few decades, establishing the processes and policies that have made The JI the pre-eminent peer-reviewed journal in the field. He also served the organization as a councillor (1916–18), secretary-treasurer (1918–46), secretary (1946–48), and, uniquely, honorary president of AAI (1949–60). During his 43 years of service to AAI, Coca continuously served on ad hoc committees and recruited new AAI members.

Although he began his professional career in academia, Coca is best known for the 18 years (1931–49) he served as the medical director at Lederle Laboratories. At the time of his arrival to that company, Lederle was producing antitoxins, vaccines, and other biologics. During his tenure there, Lederle developed new biologics, including pituitary and thyroid extracts and sulfa drugs; manufactured penicillin during the Second World War; and isolated and produced the revolutionary antibiotics Aureomycin and Achromycin.

Although not as well-known as Coca, A. Parker Hitchens left an equally profound impact on AAI. He served in multiple leadership positions in the nascent years of the association—first as council chair (1914–17) and then as a councillor (1918–21).

It was in his role as council chair at the first AAI annual meeting in 1914 that Hitchens became responsible for important facets of organizational governance, including the creation of a constitution and bylaws. It was a responsibility that Hitchens took to heart through the many drafts of each until they were adopted on April 6, 1917. Meanwhile, Hitchens assumed other leadership roles. At the second AAI annual meeting (1915), he was appointed by AAI President Webb to a committee to “influence physicians whose qualifications entitled them to membership in the Association.” After membership issues were discussed, Hitchens reported that SSH, led by Arthur Coca, was considering the creation of a Journal of Immunity and recommended that AAI help with its founding. In quick order, Hitchens was elected to “represent the society in negotiations with Dr. Coca, with authority to render all possible aid, looking to the publication of the journal.”

A. Parker HitchensA. Parker Hitchens
AAI Collection, UMBC
Hitchens was the logical choice. Not only was he a strong advocate for AAI to help found a journal for the field, but also, his involvement in the founding of two other journals, The Journal of Bacteriology and Abstracts of Bacteriology, gave him insight and experience in the business and editorial management of a new journal. Throughout his professional life, Hitchens continued his service to AAI by helping to organize annual meetings, serving on ad hoc committees, and nominating many future members.

At the time of his involvement in the founding of AAI, Hitchens was biological director of the H. K. Mulford Company. Having joined the company in 1901, as it was expanding research staff to develop antitoxins and vaccines, Hitchens presided over his lab’s efforts to develop more effective smallpox and rabies vaccines and production of bacterins and serobacterins and their increases in purity and yield of their diphtheria antitoxin. Hitchens left Mulford in 1918 to enter the U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps during the First World War and remained in the army as a researcher and teacher for the remainder of his career.

Package of dried antietanic serum (c. 1907) and vial of tetanus antitoxin (c. 1970)Dried antietanic serum and vial of tetanus antitoxin
National Library of Medicine
The number of AAI members from industry increased following the Second World War. In 1946, seven of the 37 new members were from the pharmaceutical manufacturers, including American Cyanamid Company, Eli Lilly & Company, and Lederle Laboratories. Throughout the years, the growth and evolution of the pharmaceutical and biotech industry have been reflected in AAI members and leaders. Some, such as Roger M. Perlmutter (AAI 1983, president 1999–2000), have moved from academia to industry; others, such as Lewis L. Lanier (AAI 1980, president 2006–2007), have moved from academia to industry and back again to academia.

Today, AAI members in industry participate actively as speakers at the annual meeting, lecturers at the courses, reviewers and editors for The JI, and members of various committees. They also serve as mentors to early-career scientists on industry-focused panels and roundtable events at the annual meeting— important resources through which scientists-in-training can explore the variety of opportunities for scientists within industry. Just how many members AAI may have had from industry is difficult to say. Few AAI members before 1946 provided institutional affiliations, and most changes in institutions were either never recorded or have been lost. There can be little doubt, however, about how AAI has benefited from the participation and leadership of industry members since its founding.


See also articles that were inset in the published version of this article:



  • American Drug Manufactures’ Association. Proceedings of Tenth Annual Meeting, April 11–14, 1921 (1922).
  • Clapesattle, Helen. Dr. Webb of Colorado Springs. Boulder, CO: Colorado Associated University Press, 1984.
  • Emrich, John S. “The Founding of AAI.” AAI Newsletter (May/June 2012): 24–29.
  • Emrich, John S. “The Founding of The Journal of Immunology.” AAI Newsletter (February 2016): 16–20.
  • Frohman, Larry. “Association Prevention, Welfare, and Citizenship: The War on Tuberculosis and Infant Mortality in Germany, 1900–1930.” Central European History 39, no. 3 (2006): 431–81.
  • Galambos, Louis and Sewell, Jane Eliot. Networks of Innovation: Vaccine Development at Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and Mulford, 1895–1995. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Hoefle, Milton L. “The Early History of Parke-Davis and Company.” Bulletin for the History of Chemistry 25, no. 1 (2000): 28–34.
  • Kraut, Alan, “Plagues and Prejudice,” in Hives of Sickness: Public Health and Epidemics in New York City. Edited by David Rosner. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.
  • National Association of Manufacturers of Medicinal Products. Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting, February 6–7, 1912 (1913).
  • Rothman, Sheila M. Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1995.
  • Warren, Peter. “The Evolution of the Sanatorium: The First Half-Century, 1854-1904.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 23, no. 2 (2006): 457–476.
  • Minutes of First Annual Meeting of The American Association of Immunologists. June 22, 1914. AAI Archive, Rockville, MD.
  • Minutes of Second Annual Meeting of The American Association of Immunologists. May, 10 1915. AAI Archive, Rockville, MD.

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