A steroid industry in Mexico
Marker tried to interest Mexican entrepreneurs in exploiting his process. Eventually, while looking through the
Mexico City telephone directory, he saw a listing for "Laboratorios Hormona, S.A.," a company set up in 1933 by
Emeric Somlo and Federico Lehmann, primarily to produce gland extracts. When contacted, Lehmann recognized Marker's
name, and because of his background in endocrinology, Lehmann also realized the significance of Marker's proposal.
When Somlo arrived, the three agreed to form a company for the production of steroid hormones.
Marker ended his research program at Penn State during 1943 and resigned on December 1. He also told Parke-Davis he would
only sign patent applications until that date. When the company delayed until April 1944, Marker refused to assign patent
rights to anyone, including himself, thus granting free use of his invention to anyone interested. In early 1944, the new
Mexican company was chartered and named Syntex, S.A. (from Synthesis and Mexico). According to Marker, Somlo was to
receive 52% of the shares, Lehmann, 8%, and Marker, 40%, partly in return for his two kilos of progesterone. Working
with four unskilled assistants in space provided by Hormona, Marker prepared his first kilo of progesterone by March.
Within a year, Syntex was selling progesterone for $50 a gram.
In May 1945, a rancorous dispute between Marker and his partners over profits and their distribution caused Marker to
sever all ties with Syntex and leave the company. Syntex was unable to make more progesterone because Marker not only
had done the key operations himself but had coded the reagent bottles and left no directions.
By July, Marker was making progesterone in Texcoco, near Mexico City. His new company, Botanica-mex, was backed
financially by Applezweig. Over the next months, several kilos of progesterone were synthesized, but production
ceased in March 1946 because of the physical harassment of the workers by unidentified outsiders. Botanica-mex's
assets were sold to Gedeon Richter Ltd. With Marker intermittently directing the work, this company started
production in Mexico City under the name Hormonosynth. During this time, the cabeza de negro was replaced by another
yam called barbasco, which contained five times as much diosgenin. After Marker retired, the company was reorganized