Initial investigations with radioactive isotopes began using products from the 37” cyclotron before the 60”cyclotron became fully operational in 1939. Chemists, physicists, biologists and physicians on the UCB, and UCSF faculty having been recruited to Lawrence’s team.
Glenn Seaborg was initially part of the accelerator group and later the leader of the isotope development team. His major efforts were on the development of radiochemistry methods of producing tracers for others to test. John Lawrence led the Medical efforts and Joseph Hamilton led the biological applications team with most studies done in rodents. Early research including therapy tests are described (oral history) by John Lawrence in 1936 using neutrons from the 37” cyclotron. In addition, 32P was used in early radioisotope therapy of patients with leukemia and Polycythemia Vera, a malignant disease of the red blood cells.
Martin Kamen joined the Rad Lab team in 1937 as the chemist who developed many of the synthetic methods that are used in modern radiochemistry laboratories. He used 11C that was initially available, but the tracer’s short half-life (21 minutes) posed difficulties and he searched for a longer-lived radioisotope of carbon that would be more useful in biochemical research. His discovery of 14C in 1940 opened the way for the many of the basic discoveries that were to follow (for more details, see From Nuclear Science to Bacterial Cytochromes: the Work of Martin D. Kamen ). The studies of the metabolism of glucose, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats were begun at Berkeley (see Discovery and characterization of electron transfer proteins in the photosynthetic bacteria) along with the study of photosynthetic processes in plants. Kamen’s work provided the tools Mel Calvin needed for his work on photosynthesis, for which in 1961 he received the Nobel prize in Chemistry. Work in the Corey labs in Washington University added new knowledge of the different steps involved in carbohydrate metabolism.