Wyeth-Ayerst Canada, Inc.
A Canadian pharmaceutical success story

Early History

The firm of Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Limited was founded in January 1925 out of scientific curiosity and an interest in Newfoundland cod liver oil by William Allen Ayerst, William Harrison, William McKenna, and Hugh McPherson, all of whom had resigned from another pharmaceutical company to pursue their belief that a new product could be developed from the liver oil extracted from the Newfoundland cod which, in 1924, was found to be far richer in vitamin A than that taken from the then medically endorsed Norwegian cod.

The new company set out to produce a biologically tested Newfoundland cod liver oil and, in so doing, established the first commercially operated biological laboratory in Canada.

Operations began immediately in a plant located in Montreal. Soon after, a new standardized cod liver oil product was placed on pharmacy shelves across Canada and, for the first time, the quality of cod liver oil was actually ensured.

The 1925 founders of Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Limited. Seated, left to right, circa 1945, W.H. Wallace, retired; William Harrison, Chariman of the Board; William J. JcKenna, Vic-President. Standing, left, Hugh McPherson, Director; and right, W.A.S. Ayerst, Founding President.

Largely due to the influence of William McKenna, reportedly "a man unusually attuned to the trends of his industry," Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison formed a long and fruitful association with Dr. James Bertram Collip, co-discoverer of insulin in 1922 and the newly appointed head of McGill University's Department of Endocrinology. Because he felt that hormone research would be a wise endeavour for his young company, Mr. McKenna deliberately sought out Dr. Collip.

American Home Products

In 1943, Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison Inc. was acquired by American Home Products Corporation (AHP). With a number of major drug discoveries, Ayerst, McKenna & Harrison continued until the early 1980s to operate as one of the most innovative of the Canadian pharmaceutical companies.

When Ayerst, McKenna, & Harrison Limited was incorporated in 1925, the firm of pharmaceutical chemists immediately began research into cod liver oil. By 1929, Ayerst introduced the first cod liver oil concentrate in North America. It was called Alphamettes. During the Great Depression of the 1930s and throughout the war years, cod liver oil became a staple vitamin product accross North America.

Wyeth-Ayerst Canada, Inc.

John Wyeth and Brother was established in 1860 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Montreal, Quebec, was selected in 1883 as the first site for the company's foreign expansion. This was the first foreign-owned innovative pharmaceutical company in Canada.

Today, Wyeth-Ayerst Canada is Canada's oldest pharmaceutical company.

In 1993, Wyeth and Ayerst merged. The newly formed Wyeth-Ayerst Canada established its registered headquarters in 1993 in St-Laurent, Quebec, the site of its manufacturing facilities for pharmaceuticals and the location of its research and development centre, which consisted of a clinical research unit and a chemical development division. The St-Laurent location also includes a chemical pilot plant and a clinical supply unit, and is the site of the company's export division and product development laboratories. The commercial activities were relocated to Toronto, Ontario.

In 1995, American Home Products acquired American Cyanamid Company, a multidivisional

operation in the field of pharmaceuticals, medical and surgical instruments, crop protection, and veterinary products. Its Canadian affiliate was successfully integrated into Wyeth-Ayerst Canada. As a result, Wyeth-Ayerst Canada Inc. is a multidivisional, fully integrated company with two major manufacturing sites (StLaurent, Quebec, and Brandon, Manitoba) and with extensive research and development activities and a strong marketing and sales organization. With 1995 exports valued at $150 million, the company is by far the largest Canadian exporter for pharmaceuticals. It has major manufacturing and export mandates in the areas of hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and vitamin preparations.