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Abbott Laboratories: Live a Long and Healthy Life


“Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” – William Osler

Today, there is a cure for almost everything. Science and medicine have improved to outstanding levels, allowing humans to live longer and better lives. What’s more, thanks to technology, there are countless gadgets today that can easily trace diseases or give answers to medical questions.

But this wasn’t always the case. Long ago, people didn’t have the same access to medicine as we have today. That was until Wallace Calvin Abbott entered the scene and started slowly creating ways to help people build healthier lives.

Wallace is the founder of Abbott Laboratories, also known as just Abbott – a company that creates pharmaceuticals and healthcare products. Since its founding in 1944, Abbott has become one of the most well-known companies in the industry.

Dr. Abbott started his idea in early 1888 and brought it to an industry giant. Let’s dive in and learn more about his story.

Where It All Started

Born in 1857, Wallace Calvin Abbott began his life in a small town in Vermont called Bridgewater. His father, Luther Abbot, had a small farm that he had spent his whole life taking care of, hoping to pass on the same working habits to his kids. His mother, Wealtha Barrows Abbott, also helped around the place as much as she could, taking care of Wallace and his sister Lucy.

When the time came for Wallace to go to school, his father opposed the idea, urging the young boy to stay and work on the farm, believing that pursuing an education at the age of 14 was unnecessary. Lucky for Wallace, his mother had a different idea for his future. She convinced Luther that Wallace should get an education, and so the young Wallace studied hard and long to earn a medical degree.

In his 20s, he started his education at St. Johnsbury College and was later accepted to Dartmouth College, where he studied medicine. In 1885, when he was 28 years old, Wallace finally earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan.

His passion for helping people urged him to move forward and not give up, even pushing him to find various ways to self-finance his studies. Once he earned his degree, he moved to Chicago and realized that it was time to use his gift.

The Urge to Help

Wallace started his medical career as a practicing physician in Chicago. At the time, there weren’t the gadgets and tools we use today, so Wallace had to personally go to his patients and treat them.

He used various herbs at the beginning to create his drugs. Step by step, Wallace Abbott started to create his own pharmaceuticals – pills and liquids that he had produced himself by using different plants and combining their best attributes.

He first began with simple remedies like Dr. Abbott's Tooth Ache Drops. But soon after, Wallace started the real journey. The year 1888 was the stepping stone for him. He was merely a 30-year-old physician working on various projects then, one of which included using the active ingredients of plants and herbs.

He’d ground the contents and put them into small tubes, calling these pills the “domestics granules”. These proved to be far better and more effective than anything present on the market at the time, so Wallace started making more and more in the back of his People’s Drug Store in an effort to help people.

The first year of selling these “alkaloidal” medicine granules proved to be a success as there was a revenue of $2,000. In 1890, Wallace placed the first ad for his medicine in the Medical World journal – the same year when sales upped to $8,000. Seeing this rise, Wallace was done working for a small profit and decided to take the next step!

Establishing the Name

Even though he officially started working in 1888 in a small factory, Wallace officially opened the Abbott Alkaloidal Company in 1894. In the same year, he published in the Alkaloid Clinic journal (today known as the American Journal of Clinical Medicine), where he wrote various ways for people to avert or treat a disease. He began as the sole editor of this journal but soon got help from Dr. William F. Waugh.

Business soon started to boom, and more people became interested in his products. A small mishap that came in the form of fire on the 50,000-square-foot plant threatened to stop production. However, luck was on Wallace’s side, as only the pharmaceutical production facility survived.

After the construction of a new place, business rose again. In 1914, Wallace decided to switch to synthetic medicines under the guidance of Dr. Burdick. In the same year, World War I started, which surprisingly presented the turning point for the Abbott Alkaloidal Company.

A year later, the company was renamed into Abbott Laboratories and, in 1916, created the first synthetic medicine – Chlorazene. For the first time, in 1918, sales went over $1 million, showing that the firm was well on its way to becoming a huge success. This was mainly due to the fact that during WWI, the US sanctioned companies that produced German-trademarked drugs, which meant more business for Abbott.

Leaving a Legacy

Wallace was never actively present in the company's growth – for him, it wasn’t a business; it was about helping people. Instead, he always stayed in the shadows, preferring to practice medicine and go directly to his patients.

After devoting 33 years to leading the company, Wallace died in 1921. However, this was not the end of Abbott Laboratories. The company was overtaken by Dr. Burdock, who kept Wallace's wish to create a better future for everyone.

The Abbott Products Pipeline

In 1922, Abbott Laboratories created Butyn – a topical anesthetic, and later in 1930, it improved the product and made Nembutal – a faster-acting anesthetic. Through the ’30s, ’40s, and so on, Abbott Laboratories kept creating various new products like sodium pentanol (truth serum).

The company kept a close eye on technology and started making devices that would notice diseases in patients more quickly. It created the first HIV blood screening rest and other treatments for this particular disease, like Norvir.

Synthroid, Depakote, and Humira are some of the other products on their list. All Abbott developments today are made to help hospitals, blood banks, physicians, and all other medical facilities and individuals to diagnose and monitor various diseases.

Going Public

Abbott went public as early as 1929. Back then, it entered the Chicago Stock Exchange for $32 per share. In 1980, the company opened on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol NYSE:ABT.

Today the company has earned $6.8 million only through 2 rounds of funding. The first round was in 2009, when Abbott got $6.7 million. In 2011 – another Post Debt IPO Round – resulted in significantly lower funds of $100,000.

The firm itself has also made several investments in places like Howard University, SetPoint Medical, Bigfoot Biomedical, and more. Abbott Laboratories has so far had 38 acquisitions and only 3 exits: Evalve, Alere, and Respicardia.

The Future Steps of Abbott Laboratories

Abbott Laboratories today is stationed in Illinois City, Illinois, the US, and employs more than 5,000 people. The number of awards this company has attained only speaks volumes of the true importance that Wallace Abbott had on the overall medical world.

The growth even expanded to creating another sister company – AbbVie. This one makes more than $20 billion a year and employs around 90,000 people. Its focus is on bio-pharmacy.

As for the future, Abbott Laboratories sees no end. Amidst a global pandemic, it managed to shift its production to help people, showing that it's perfectly adaptable to change and can always keep on helping people live better, longer, and healthier lives!