Du Pont Central Research - Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences

One area always deemed important for diversification of CRD's programs was related to the biological sciences. Charles Stine had promoted biochemistry as a field of research for Du Pont and Stine Laboratories are named in his honor as a result. In the early 1950s, CRD began a program to investigate chemicals for biological applications. Charles Todd prepared substituted ureas as potential antibacterial agents, which when screened, proved to be effective herbicides. These led to DuPont’s very successful and very selective sulfonylurea herbicides. CRD's program included agricultural and veterinary chemicals and bacteriological and microbiological studies. The culmination of this work was DuPont’s purchase of Pioneer Hi-Bred Seeds and its integration into DuPont’s agrichemical enterprise.

In the mid- 1950s, CRD began work on the chemistry of nitrogen fixation in plants, a study that would develop into a major effort over the next decade. In 1963, Ralph Hardy joined the CRD and brought Du Pont's nitrogen fixation research to international prominence with more than a hundred papers on the subject. Chemical Week called him, "one of the nation's top achievers in the dual role of scientist and scientific manager," though such managers remained common in CRD through the 1960s and 70s.

Fermentation microbiology and selective genetic modification became important to the CRD development of a biological route to 1,3-propylene glycol a new monomer for making polyester. The availability of this new monomer led to the development and commercialization of Sorona, a premium polyester. Substantial success was also achieved in the synthesis of unnatural peptides and proteins to accomplish specific functions and prediction of their tertiary structures.

Advances in DNA sequencing technology based on synthesis of novel fluorescent labels led to Qualicon, a DuPont venture that identifies bacteria by examination of their DNA using PCR. This technology has led to significant improvements in the safety of the food supply chain in the United States and around the world.

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