While working at his lab one day, Martin notices that a whole bunch of strep throat bacteria in one of his flasks have completely died out.
He assumes at first that it's a mistake, because a good hearty culture of bacteria doesn't just disappear like that. When he reruns the test, though, he realizes that there's something in his mixture that has completely killed off every last bacterium in his test tube.
This is insane, since it could lead to a cure for pretty much every bacterial infection in existence, including pneumonia.
Rather than tell anyone, Martin hunkers down and retests his results every way he can think of. It's not long before Max Gottlieb notices that he's up to something, though. When he hears of Martin's discovery, he agrees that it's best to keep the thing secret for as long as possible. They both know that as a cure, Martin's substance absolutely works. But they're not willing to let it into the public without figuring out exactly how or why it works.
During the coming weeks, Martin hardly ever sleeps, and the lack of rest takes its toll on his health. He becomes paranoid from sleep deprivation and starts seeing all kinds of hidden messages in the world around him.
Eventually, there's no choice but to flee New York and force himself to relax in Vermont. His strength doesn't come back immediately, but eventually he's able to return to his work with some level of sanity.