California: Hotbed of Innovation

Introduction

 

Biotechnology as a major field within science has led to many new companies copying the Genentech blueprint: having a small company creating commercially viable products to earn profits. This movement from a purely academic scope of research to a company thriving in an industrial market has become a popular choice for those interested in the sciences, offering more career opportunities. From the 1970s on, a number of companies would emerge to follow the example set by Genentech. This would result in a major growth of the field, located in California.

California has become the true center of biotechnology in the U.S, as the birth place of the industry as well as having numerous companies making products in a multitude of fields. Because of this environment, being surrounded by other biotech companies, a sense of innovation is greatly encouraged, as competition will enable a surge of creativity. This anthology details several examples of how California has become the epicenter of biotech, ranging from peculiar facts about the history of Californian biotech to present companies developing new products within the biotech field. The hotbed of innovation exhibited by the California environment is shown through the amount of diverse companies and novel products.

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California: Hotbed of Innovation

Biotech and Business: The emergence of private sector Biology

           Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech by Sally Smith Hughes is an engaging look at the birth of a new type of industry, the field of biotechnology. Research with the natural sciences has always been an academic pursuit, to figure out how the world and everything in it functions. However, in the 1970s, as biology and chemistry continued to develop alongside technology, business was bound to get involved. Hughes, as a scientific historian from the hotbed of technology and biotech in California, details the entire life of the first Biotech company, Genentech. Her genealogy of the story on this small, yet influential company begins with the technique of producing recombinant DNA and the capacity to produce a large amount of clones of the desired DNA. From this scientific breakthrough, a few key players would emerge, and eventually start Genentech, with a goal of using recombinant DNA to make industrial products. Continue reading “Biotech and Business: The emergence of private sector Biology”

Biotech and Business: The emergence of private sector Biology

The A chain and B chain of Insulin

A major component of this chapter was the structure of insulin, and if the Genentech team would be able to synthetically synthesize each aspect of its structure. The different chains are the protein chains encoded by the DNA, the specific gene. The process was complicated by contamination and difficulties with removing the isolated chains from the different bacterial plasmids. The amino acid sequence of each chain is unique, with the A chain having 21 amino acids and the B chain having 30 amino acids. Without a protein chemist, the Genentech team struggled in this part of the project, but were able to succeed in the end. Protein structure is very important when understanding the genetic code that produces it, such as the presence of factors like disulfide bonds, which are not fully detailed in the DNA, but affect the stability of the protein.

The A chain and B chain of Insulin

The Omnipresence of DNA

DNA has been used to tie criminals to their crimes for years now, but how exactly does that process happen? What is DNA? How can it be matched to a suspect? How much DNA is necessary to be a useable sample? Is DNA enough to convict someone in a courtroom? Samantha Weinberg answers these questions and many more in her nonfiction book Pointing From the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA. This novel tells the true story about Dr. Helena Greenwood, a thriving marketing director at a biotechnology company. Greenwood worked at the forefront of the biotechnology world, and had her sights set on getting involved in DNA fingerprinting. In 1984, Dr. Greenwood was sexually assaulted at her home in San Francisco. She was set to be the key witness during the trial, but in 1985, she was murdered outside her home in San Diego. With a suspect, but no evidence, the case went cold for 15 years before the technology that Greenwood had been so hopeful about was the exact technology that set her case to rest. Continue reading “The Omnipresence of DNA”

The Omnipresence of DNA

Recombinant DNA

Recombinant DNA is a very significant field within genetics as it allows for numerous opportunities into molecular research. Recombinant DNA is a type of nucleic acid that is created by combining different segments of DNA together synthetically. At the time of Swanson’s and Boyer’s research, this was an important event because with the technology, different genes could be cloned extremely easily, and in very high quantities. The beginnings of Genetech show that recombinant DNA would sky rocket in the near future, as synthetically engineering human genes and replicating them with ease would eventually lead to the mass production of human insulin, an example of recombinant DNA. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) , as mentioned in the Genetech, had an active presence in the initial research into recombinant DNA, still is very involved, as this article details the government regulations on DNA research as a whole.

Recombinant DNA

Frediani’s Life in prison

Weinberg’s decision to visit Frediani in prison was not something that surprised me. However, what did surprise me was that she decided to visit him multiple times. Trying to gather all the information she could regarding the case, it makes sense to talk to the central figure of her future book. Being in an environment for an extended period of time with a convicted sexual offender and murderer takes a tremendous amount of courage, yet Weinberg does not flinch. Frediani’s typical response would be to avoid Weinberg, but he slips back into his natural state of being a cool, calm, and collected individual who can lie his way out of a difficult situation.

Frediani’s Life in prison

DNA Backlogs

Chapter 14 references the movement of DNA samples from police to genetic crime labs, highlighting the process by which DNA can be identified in limited amounts for probably suspects. However, this process of DNA analysis is very time consuming, and does not immediately produce results. The main issue with this is backlog, where DNA crime labs have an enormous amount of DNA samples from a multitude of cases, forcing some cases to be stalled as the experiments for the analysis are delayed, or not even started. This can be a very serious issue, as most of these samples are involved in sexual assault cases, but may not be analyzed due to the expanding list of samples to go through the protocols. This website gives a quick look at how police use DNA and how backlogs are a major issue at the present time. DNA Backlog

DNA Backlogs

Taq Polymerase

Chapter 10 mentions briefly that a new polymerase was discovered in 1986 by Erlich, one that would revolutionize the already occurring revolution of PCR. Taq polymerase is from the bacteria Thermis aquaticus, and was used by geneticists because of its heat resistance, as it comes from a thermophilic bacterium. I found this to be a fascinating breakthrough because this polymerase immensely increased the efficiency of PCR and would open even more doors for more fields. Even today, another bacterium has been used for its polymerase, Pyrococcus furiosis, because it is even better at copying the DNA in the PCR process than taq polymerase, by resulting in less errors due to its proofreading abilities. Moreover, this finding shows the relationship between all science fields, as genetics required microbiology to reach new heights.

Taq Polymerase

DNA fingerprinting history

Chapter 8 gave a great look into the history of DNA involvement in police investigations, beginning with the development of DNA fingerprinting. A major part of the DNA fingerprinting process involves the use of restriction enzymes, which put simply cut the desired section of DNA. However, the chapter does elaborate too much on the use of the enzymes, or the process of gel electrophoresis itself. This link describes the uses and functions of restriction enzymes, and how they are a vital tool for genetic researchers. Even classes here have students use restriction enzymes to cut DNA, for example in the process of PCR work in lab sections.

How Restriction Enzymes work

DNA fingerprinting history

Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From

Theoretical and Evolutional Networking Connections

Our physical, emotional and mentally evolving universe has many known limitations in fields of chemistry, biology, biotechnology and innovative sciences overall. These limitations are nothing but mental barriers that are bound to be overcame using the basis of innovation that our great ancestors founded many years ago. Where Good Ideas Come From written by Steven Johnson makes clear and somewhat short the long and tedious step-by-step process in which innovation progressed. In this science related nonfiction piece, Steve Johnson, a formidable writer and historian, talks about the different variations of ways in which ideas come to be, how they are/were implemented, the best ways these ideas can come to surface and how they contribute to the overall spectrum of innovative thinking. This writing contains a wealth of information relative to what everything is today and how it came to be, thus making it relevant and interesting to audiences of all sorts. Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”

Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From

The Environment and Hunches

Reading the end of chapter 3 was very informative, as it described the environment in which Google operates. Google has its employees pursue personal personal projects that involved their passions. This type of environment fostered a workplace that enabled ideas to experience immense growth, ultimately resulting in major breakthroughs, like Google News. The end of the chapter also highlights the evolution of workplaces and networks, as Google has seen tremendous growth, while the FBI still uses the same system that halted the movement of the Phoenix memo.

The Environment and Hunches