The Fabbrica della Penicillina in Postwar Italy: an Institutionalist Approach

Francesco Taroni


This paper focuses on the motives and long-term effects of the momentous decision to build a world-class biomedical research laboratory, the International Center for Chemical Microbiology, at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, rather than develop domestic production of penicillin to meet the needs of a destitute postwar Italy. An institutionalist approach will provide a richer vision of the intersections of scientific and national political history in postwar Italy and the Cold War. The Center failed in its modernising mission due to an insular mentality producing an enclosure effect against the State, the healthcare system and the pharmaceutical industry. The absence of a scientific base together with an economic policy of liberal protectionism that placed premiums on import tariffs and the licensing of foreign products explains the path dependency of the pharmaceutical industry during the postwar years and its demise in the 1960s. 

Key words: Penicillin - Postwar - Istituto Superiore di Sanità 

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