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Friday, October 2, 2009

Biotech history

My October Research magazine article, on the history of biotech, is now online. Excerpt:

The roots of biotech can be traced back over centuries, involving such precursors as the fermentation of yeast in beer production. The modern biotech industry, though, began on April 7, 1976, when biochemist Herbert Boyer and venture capitalist Robert Swanson founded Genentech to develop drugs based on the technology of recombinant DNA, in which genes from multiple sources are combined into a single molecule. Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen had pioneered such gene splicing earlier in the decade.

Genentech went public on Oct. 14, 1980, with 1 million shares offered at $35 each. Investors bid the price up to $89 in a matter of minutes, and the stock closed for the day at $70. The company, by the way, at this point still had no actual products, though it had achieved some important laboratory milestones, such as cloning human insulin.

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