The intriguing life of J.B. Collip, whose restless drive fuelled his pioneering studies in endocrinology and sustained a successful research enterprise through the first half of the twentieth century.
In the early years of the twentieth century medical research in Canada was the job of a select few. By mid-century it had grown into a systematic, large-scale venture that involved teams of professional scientists and dozens of laboratories in universities, government, and industry. J.B. Collip - skilled both as a bench scientist and an entrepreneur - played a leading role in this transformation. In J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada Alison Li details how Collip leapt into prominence in 1921-22 as part of the team at the University of Toronto that isolated insulin. When the Nobel Prize was awarded to Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod in 1923, Banting announced he was sharing his award with Charles Best; Macleod in turn announced he was sharing his award with Collip.
Collip was known for his remarkable skills in making hormone extracts, many of which proved to have therapeutic, and therefore commercial, value. At McGill University in the 1930s he headed a thriving research group that carried out investigations of the pituitary and sex hormones, including development of one of the first orally active estrogen products. Collip's story sheds light on early negotiations between academic science and the pharmaceutical industry and on the complexities of sustaining a research laboratory before the rise of government funding. As the head of the National Research Council's medical research division during its formative years, Collip helped shape the foundations of organized support for medical research in Canada.