A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries

Introduction

Science is all about discovery and invention. Discoveries can come from slow hunches or even spontaneously. What isn’t normally considered is the possibility of the same discovery occurring by two different people. The concept of multiple discovery, otherwise known as simultaneous invention, suggests that scientific discoveries are typically made independently of one another but simultaneously by many scientists. Essentially, more than one scientist has independently discovered the same thing.

 

This anthology profiles 15 examples of multiple discoveries in various historical situations and books that we have read this semester. From the discovery of evolution to the discovery of a carbon nanotube, it is important to understand the many types of discoveries, the time frame, and the context in which each item was discovered. Furthermore, while these examples are offered, this anthology aims to aid in the understanding of how multiple discoveries contribute to the success of of the scientific field.

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A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries

The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business

      Do you ever wonder what it takes for a company to be successful? Sally Smith Hughes’ book, Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech, answers this question with an inside look at the makings of Genentech, a California-based biotech company, and their quest to make human insulin and growth hormone commercialized. Hughes has established herself as an academic scholar through her study of the history of science and her oral stories such as “Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology” as she looks into discoveries and commercialization (Berkeley). Similarly, in Genentech, she integrates scientific, legal and corporate ideas to portray the biotech startup and challenges it faced. The most important challenges are competition, patentability, and partnerships with corporate companies, all of which Hughes uses to give readers who are unfamiliar with these fields a better understanding. Continue reading “The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business”

The Success of Genentech: Integrating Science, Law, and Corporate Business

From Foe to Friend

“the building, christened Genentech hall, stands today at the center of campus, a symbolic reconciliation so both sides pointedly portrayed-of long term protagonists of biopharmaceutical research”(Hughes,153).

Competition is one of the most important thing in life, it what drives us to make the best of our abilities, and to not fall behind, In the book, Genentech and UCSF are competing labs trying to beat each other to to biotech punch. Genentech had hired former UCSF scientists who “borrowed” old work and brought it with them to Genentech and helped create human insulin. This lead to USCF suing Genentech. This is interesting because it seems to be only done because Genentech succeeded at insulin, where if not they would have maybe been left alone. The issue is resolved and Genentech gives money to build a new research building at UCSF, and is interestingly named after them. This seems like the best friend you make after being in a fight, sometimes competition can bring who entities closer together.

 

From Foe to Friend

Competition and Insulin Production

Chapter 4 of Genentech posed some interesting points as they discussed the discovery and production of human insulin. While most of the chapter did focus on the technical and science aspects of actually synthesizing human insulin, there was a lot of discussion between the development of insulin through the influence of competition. It was stated that both UCSF and Harvard were competing to produce insulin first and when they thought they did, it was really only found to be a precursor to insulin, rather, an inactive form. After this was discovered, Genentech was able to successfully synthesize human insulin. It is interesting to look at the external influences that cause discoveries to be made. Rather than just playing around  with compounds or molecules, competition, essentially, drove the creation of insulin. This relates to things that people see in their everyday lives. Under pressure and competing with others allows one to create the best output. In a video, Goeddel, discusses the fierce competition that helped Genentech prosper in the synthesis of human insulin. It is interesting to see the perspectives of scientists and researchers involved as they experienced the pressure and competition first hand. Thus, this chapter gave us readers an interesting look into what it takes for something to be successful – while intellectual faculty and knowledge plays a major role, sometimes the external environment and competition between people produces the best results.

Competition and Insulin Production

The Slow Hunch and the DNA answer

” ‘From the start we hoped for some chemical revelation that would lead to the correct structure’, Watson wrote. ‘But we never anticipated that the answer would come so suddenly in one swoop and with such finality’. It was a true Eureka moment” (Weinberg 38-39).

I think that this quote, about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA, illustrates Steven Johnson’s point about slow hunches being the basis of all good ideas. There actually aren’t generally such things as “eureka” moments. True, it seemed as if Watson just miraculously stumbled upon the answer to DNA’s structure, but in reality his process was different. For one, he collaborated the whole time with Crick, and so his ideas were inevitably influenced by and checked by someone else.

For another thing, Watson and Crick were basically at a stumped point in their research when they went and saw Rosalin Franklin’s work of X-ray photographs of DNA. Weinberg even says that with “more earnest manipulation of their models” (Weinberg 38), they started working harder to find the solution. This basically means that competition was a driving point to them making their discovery.

Finally, the two scientists were trying the whole time to answer one question: what was the structure of DNA? They were searching for this specific answer. They had exhausted basically all other possibilities and answers when they made the discovery. From this, one could argue that they just naturally arrived at the answer from their slow hunch.

The Slow Hunch and the DNA answer

Results of Competition

In Where Good Ideas Come From we learned of the power of competition, especially when patenting was involved. To counter that idea, Johnson also discussed the necessity of team work and the fourth quadrant. In Pointing from the Grave, Helena discusses how competition got the better of her company.

“Syva had poured more money than it could afford into a new, automated drug-testing machine. If it worked, it would have dominated the field. But there were technical hitches and Abbott, Syva’s main competitor, got their product out first. It was a disaster for Syva- they were forced to lay off hundreds of staff and cancel future projects” (Weinberg 17)

It is interesting to see the theories come to life. It can only be a matter of days for a competitor to beat out its competition. I can see why patents can be essential because they can protect inventions and the employees who worked on a project.

Results of Competition

Competition Leads to Innovation

After reading the introduction of Johnson’s book, I began to question why some environments allow for better innovation. I started wondering whether or not competition strikes more innovation in environments. I immediately started to think about school, college in particularly. College students in different majors are all competing to get the best GPAs, do well on tests, and eventually graduate and find work in their field of study. However, in the process of fighting to be the best students work to out do each other and make themselves stand out. This extra effort to stand out leads to new questions, new ideas, and perhaps even new innovation. Below is a quote from Forbes Magazine that I found interesting and wanted to share.

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“Human beings survived and evolved because they cooperated to compete against the elements, says Buchholz. In the working world, competition often creates cooperation, be it in team projects or in a company-wide effort to beat out the opposition” -Forbes Magazine

Competition Leads to Innovation

Competition

Image result for apple logovs Image result for windows logo

“Competition between rival firms leads to innovation in their products and services” (pg. 21)

At the end of the chapter, Johnson brings up this idea of competition fueling good ideas and new innovations. It made me immediately think of Apple verses Window products. Both company’s have evolved to be both sufficient products but for some reason more people prefer one over the other. Apple products seem to be more costly and maybe their marketing strategies are better than windows. However, both companies produce updates often to keep their products running better and also adding more features to the programs for consumers, adds business. So why is one always considered better than the other? Is it always a personal preference or statistically is one more efficient than the other, or is it just marketing skills? These types of questions came to mind when I was thinking about the competition between these two companies.

I found an article online displaying reason why Mac computers are better than a PC. 1. Superior hardware, 2. Better Battery life, 3. The interface, 4. Free updates, 5. Anti-Virus protection, 6. Updating is not a nightmare, 7. Third-party services, 8. Track pad.

Some of these features a PC also has, but may be not as high in quality according to this article. I think overall Apple has become more innovative than windows and it could be due to this distinct competition between companies that thrive Apple technicians to come up with greater ideas.

Competition

Competition’s Effect on Innovation

The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms (Johnson 21).

I found this point from the introduction to be interesting because it contradicts one of the prime economic principles that suggests that a competitive market will thrive better than a non-competitive one. Although the main focus of the principle is for the firms to reach their profit-maximizing level, it also suggests that competition will increase the new ideas and innovation. I think that Johnson’s ideas of competition and innovation are more realistic than that of an economist. Innovation comes from clear thoughts and zero restraints, not the stress and pressure of having to outdo your competitor.

Competition’s Effect on Innovation