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.
Continue reading “A Scientific Anthology: Multiple Discoveries”
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.
Continue reading “California: Hotbed of Innovation”
Sally Smith Hughes‘s “Genetech: The Beginnings of Biotech” is a very informative look into the world of biotechnology specifically the highs and lows of the biotech company Genetech. Ms. Hughes is a very successful writer as she has written several books about science, specifically about the biotech industry. “Genetech: The Beginnings of Biotech” is her most recent book as she has previously written “The Virus: A History of the Concept” (Heinemann, 1997) and “Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology, 1974-1980”. Ms. Hughes currently works at the University of California, Berkeley where she continues her work on the history of science. In each of Hughes’s books there is a strong focus on a certain area of science such as patents or viruses. However, in this case the focus is on Genetech a revolutionary biotech company. Throughout the story the audience learns what goes on to make such a profitable biotech company and the various obstacles in their way. Continue reading “Innovation Realized”
In her book Genentech, Sally Smith Hughes tells the story of the rise of the biotech giant Genentech. Hughes is a historian of biomedicine and biotechnology at the Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley. She takes us through the tumultuous early years of Genentech’s history, showing how the company grew from a trio of founders to a massive organization that made a fortune through the stock market. From Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen’s development of recombinant DNA, to Tom Perkins and Bob Swanson offering Genentech as an IPO, Hughes makes a great effort to describe every major step that Genentech had to take and every hurdle they had to pass to find both commercial and scientific success. When a new person enters the company, Hughes describes them in detail, and her descriptions present these entrepreneurs and scientists as likeable characters who truly care about the work they do. She skillfully and simply describes both the complex science behind Genentech’s research and the caveats of the business world, which helped Genentech grow and succeed financially. To enhance the quality of the Genentech story, the book is filled with many photographs of the people discussed in the book as well as a few diagrams that add explanations of various scientific concepts such as DNA recombination. In this short but interesting book, Hughes provides insight into the origins of the biotechnology industry, as well as introduces readers to some of the problems early innovators in the industry had to face. Continue reading “The Birth of a New Industry: The Rise of Genentech”
Sally Smith Hughes lays out the history of one of biotechnologies most important and influential companies, Genentech. From the founders early days through their most important discoveries the self explaining title Genentech, the Beginnings of Biotech, tells of how Genentech was founded in South San Francisco. According to Hughes “Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech is the story of a pioneering genetic-engineering company that inspired a new industrial sector, transforming the biomedical and commercial landscapes ever after”(VIII). By becoming the first in the industry to synthesize insulin and Human Growth Hormone, Genentech placed themselves in history. Hughes writing tells of a new creation, “the entrepreneurial biologist” and the “intimate and people centered history traces the seminal early years of a company that devised new models for biomedical research”(xi). The importance of Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen in the field of biotechnology is repeatedly emphasized in Hughes’s words. This non-fiction history of Genentech is laid out for you by a leading historian of science and the University of California at Berkeley. Often, the existence of insulin for diabetics, or HGH for those who suffer from other disabilities, is taken for granted. Genentech tells the story of the struggle to recreate such complicated bio-medications. Continue reading “Genentech: A Visionary Company”
Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech is a book that tells the story of how Genentech, one of the first biotechnology companies, was founded. It tells the story of how “The company inspired a new industrial sector transforming the biomedical and commercial landscapes ever after” (Hughes Prologue 1). It is written by Sally Smith Hughes, a historian of science at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Virus: A History of the Concept and Making Dollars out of DNA: The First Major Patent in Biotechnology and the Commercialization of Molecular Biology (“Sally Smith Hughes” 2012). She has lots of experience detailing the history of scientific processes and companies as she is also the creator of an extensive collection of in-depth oral histories on bioscience, biomedicine, and biotechnology. This shows in her book about Genentech, as she is able to provide lots of information on the key figures in the company’s start-up, such as Herb Boyer, Stanley Cohen, and Robert Swanson. She is also able to describe the scientific processes that made the company successful such as the use and discovery of recombinant DNA. Continue reading “Genentech: A Science-Business Hybrid”
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”
In the beginning of Genentech, the founders- Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen- are introduced to us. After a brief introduction to their childhoods and what motivated them to pursue biochemistry, genetics, and biotechnology. Hughes shifts her focus to their research years. Academic Institutions, such as UCSF, start by receiving a profit from researchers from small companies that use the universities’ labs and resources through a grant. However, the staff, faculty, and researchers at such institutions are not the most welcoming.
“Unbeknownst to Genentech, the pharmaceutical giant had previously sealed an agreement with the University of California. Lillly and UC concluded a $13 million =, five-year agreement on the complementary DNA cloning and expression of human insulin and human growth hormone. (Hughes 94)
Here is the purpose of Research Universities is explained. This can give us more understanding as to why Genentech was making this big move. To conclude, in the world of patents, the process of becoming official is tough. The focus on the Genentech’s partnered research universities is to discover the Human genome hormone and insulin. Typically, this is why there is an emphasis on the professors and less on the undergraduates.
In chapter 6, the subject of “exit strategies” are discussed. The process is explained as such:
“Genentech would stage a public stock offering. Through one or the other of these “exit strategies”…Kleiner & Perkins and its co-investors would “cash in”, and in so doing fulfill their primary responsibilities: to recoup for their fund investors and for themselves their original investment” (Hughes 140)
It is interesting to see the business behind intellectual companies and research facilities such as Genentech. I knew the purpose of many companies was research, but I didn’t release how tightly woven the business aspect was. It make sense because in order to receive grants and keep the research facility, or pharmaceutical company, open there must be a good investment with good owners who can keep the place running. New ideas must come up so they stay valuable. This is also in the hope that the companies’ success will lead to potential marketing to different industries.
Sally Smith Hughes is an Academic Specialist in History of Science. She studied at the University of California, Berkley. She does research in biology which reflect her areas of interest. Moreover, she published a book called Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech. This book focuses on the beginning of the company Genentech. The company struggled through various obstacles including obstacles with the government and within the company. In the prologue the author notes, “The making of Genentech was in fact racked by problems, internal and external” (i). Despite of all the obstacles, the company managed to grow and make life changing discoveries.
The two founders of Genentech Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer both worked on the basic-research techniques. However, “they immediately foresaw its practical applications in making plentiful quantities of insulin, growth hormone, and other useful substances in bacteria,” (1). This brought internal problems because they started seeing a different direction of what they wanted to discover. Some wanted to go straight to the discovery of insulin, while others wanted to discover somatostatin. Even though it wasn’t as a strong fight as the others, their differences started to show. Their problems grew when they started publishing articles, “Then a heated dispute over authorship broke out,” (65). The more they were able to do, the more complicated it became for them. Robert Swanson started helping in managing the company and focused on getting financial security for the company. Nevertheless, some did not love the way he managed things. The author notes, “As his severest critics put it, he was ‘selling out to the industry,’” (71). It is obvious that working in such a huge project isn’t easy, and all of their fights proved that. Continue reading “The full spectrum of scientific ingenuity”
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”
“Rigid business organization and sharply delineated functions had no place at Genentech, a company in which flexibility, improvisation, and quick action were essential”(128).
Genentech’s business model and inter-company interaction are consist with innovation and a perfect level of casualness that makes the company so successful. Genentech was obviously not going to be a company forged on the conventional seriousness of the corporate world. Rather, Genentech embodies the facilitation of ideas that Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, would love. The fact of the matter is this: in the realm of science, innovation, and product-based development, it is very important for employees of whatever company to be comfortable, casual, and unconventional. This, in turn, will create an atmosphere that can spread innovation.
Current CEO Ian Clark embodies this mantra because he knows the importance of innovation facilitation in relation to the biotechnology industry. “The truth is that the best ideas don’t always come from the top. I want every person at Genentech to feel comfortable both contributing ideas and challenging them. If dressing up in a pink ruffled tuxedo or like Han Solo once in awhile helps keep that culture alive, I’m up for it.” Ian Clark could not have said it any better: it is equally important that all members of a company are able to voice their opinions and ideas, so that this company can be running at the highest level of efficiency and potential.
Chapter four of “Genentech” discusses the exploration of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is made by beta cells in our pancreas. These beta cells manufacture and release insulin into our bodies and control blood so that it may circulate and allow glucose to enter and fuel the cell. Insulin controls other aspects of our metabolism such as converting fat to glucose and glucose into fat. Interesting enough, animal insulin was the first type of insulin administered to humans to control diabetes. However today animal insulin has been replaced by human insulin. Animal insulin is taken from the pancreas of animals, usually pigs and cows. The sequence of amino acids is slightly different than insulin from a different species. Animal insulin is typically made from highly purified pancreas extracts and is marketed as “animal” insulin.
This picture was taken from Google.
Works Cited: http://www.iddt.org/about/gm-vs-animal-insulin
Chapter 5 describes “an emerging culture” in the Genentech company. Genentech was developing a culture that was unmatched by any other technology company at the time. Hughes wrote that Silicon Valley firms were equally motivated by innovation, research, and protecting intellectual property. However, these companies lacked strong ties with the academic world that biotechnology is built upon. The culture of Genentech’s company combined the financially driven aspect of product development that tech companies thrive on, with the academic collaboration that universities promote.
“Genentech’s culture was in short a hybrid of academic values brought in line with commercial objectives and practices. It was, to turn a phrase, “a recombinant culture” in way that the biotechnology industry of today continues to manifest in one way or another” -Hughes, 132
The culture was not lost on its visitors. As Hughes states, visitors to the company immediately noticed the energy and electricity of the company’s scientists. The company was noticeably informal and was lacking in respect to authority or hierarchy.
“Genentech’s culture of extremes included a strand that observers today would label socially unacceptable. But it was not Genentech’s blemishes that financiers noticed. They saw a company with an impressive line of scientific accomplishments and major corporate alliances.” – Hughes, 135
The environment of Genentech reminded me about Google’s environment from reading Johnson’ Where Good Ideas Come From. Google is notorious for having a laid back, informal work environment, where employees are encouraged to collaborate. Both Genentech and Google provide their employees with work environments that may not fit the norm, but allow their employees to be as innovative as possible. Both companies are able to produce highly marketable, successful products, while still providing their employees with the interactive environment they so desire.
The end of the book talked about the decision Genentech made to go public, even though at that point they had no products and no profit. It was a gamble that Swanson was willing to take, but was it the right decision? Many people working with Swanson thought they should wait to go public, because they could make more money and gain more investors once they had a product out. But, Swanson wanted more funding at the time and wasn’t willing to wait. At first, I thought he should have waited just as many people had advised him to. But after reviewing the Genentech stocks, it is revealed that Genentech made upwards of a billion dollars off going public, compared to only 3 million dollars in expenses. Swanson got the funding he needed to push his company forward, even if he didn’t have products or profits to support his claims. People were interested in the new concept of biotechnology and wanted a piece of the profits.
“As the founders of the biotechnology industry, our goal is to use the power of genetic engineering and advanced technologies to make medicines that address unmet medical needs, and help millions of people worldwide” – Genentech
After finishing Hughes book, I was very interested at looking at Genentech’s website to see what they are doing today and all that they have accomplished. This quote which was on their “our leadership” page really summed up their mission as a company and answered a lot of questions that I was asking myself throughout the book. I often wondered whether Genentech was too concerned with the money they were going to make when they initially started their company. Especially Swanson, the business end of the partnership, who really pushed the scientists to discover their products very quickly in order to profit as a company. I questioned whether over time they became too concerned with the competitive scientific world, and lost sight of benefiting humanity, but this quote disproves my feelings. Genentech’s website is set up similarly to a blog page. They have links to all their research and ongoing projects, which I thought really represented their mission as a company. It is a very easy site to navigate and it truly shows that Genentech is a company for the people. Another item that I really enjoyed on their website was the “Living 10 years in the Future” page. Here they showed a fantastic video of what it is like to be a Genentech scientist.
“”After considering various locations, Swanson and Perkins met with the mayor of South San Francisco, who encouraged them to locate in “The Industrial City,” as block letters proclaimed on a freeway hillside”” (Hughes 77-78).
Science is has always been about the spreading of ideas. From the dawn of science it has been paramount that the ideas and results of science be shared throughout the world. Therefore it is also important for cities to provide an environment in which ideas can flow smoothly. In the United States that city is San Francisco and Silicon Valley. There is no place on earth that offers the accessibility of capital and the most important companies on earth concentrated in one area. Venture capitalists allow for biotech companies like in the book to prosper. It also allows for ideas and medication to be brought to the free market. Overall the importance of having a city like San Francisco is vital for the progress of science as the ability of capital and the easy ability to spread ideas faster than ever before.
“Boyer and Swanson, holding 925,000 shares apiece, became instant multimillionaires, each reaping a one-day profit of nearly $70 million… The founders’ initial $500 investments in Genentech had vaulted the sons of a railroad man and an airplane mechanic to an inconceivable peak of fame and fortune.” -Hughes, pg 158
This quote reminded me of one of the subjects discussed in Where Good Ideas Come From, the concept of being able to take a single idea (in this case, Swanson’s idea to use recombinant DNA to start a biotech company) and make an enormous profit off of it. It’s a very American idea–intelligence combined with hard work can earn you a great deal of money. The example Johnson used was that of the invention of air conditioning. But looking back in Johnson’s book, I realized there’s a difference between the gold mine that Willis Carrier (inventor of air conditioning) found, and that of Genentech.
Looking back at Johnson’s book, I was reminded of his idea of the four quadrants, combinations of market and non-market innovations, and those created by individuals and those created by networks. The creation of air conditioning was an individual effort.
But the creation of Genentech was far from individual. Even at the company’s very beginning it was a network of business and science; both were needed in order to turn Genentech into a success. Johnson would certainly put Genentech’s manufacturing of insulin and all their other biological products in the second quadrant–market, networked innovations. It was Swanson’s intention from the start to make a profit off of what Boyer and the other scientists could accomplish, so Genentech’s achievements were market innovations. And given the numerous contributions from all kinds of scientific and business-oriented fields, it’s impossible to deny that Genentech’s success was the result of a vast network.
“‘…I decided I would buy a used VW Rabbit. So, [before the IPO] I sold, i think, eight hundred shares for eight thousand dollars…After we went public, the stock price went up and up and up. At some point, those eight hundred shares were worth a million dollars. And I bought a used Rabbit for that, a million dollar Rabbit. Oh god!'”-Axel Ullrich, page 159
In the tumultuous world of Wall Street, anything could happen. Sometimes, the most unlikely companies rise to the top, multiplying in size and net worth over a very short period of time. In Chapter 6 of Genentech, we see Genentech go through such a transformation. Most of us remember this kind of growth happening in companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google as we were growing up. Wall Street continues to be a risky environment today, where budding companies “make it big or die trying”. However, Genentech’s success in this chapter seems unique, in that there was great interest in it before it had a product on the market. The company had no Macintosh or iPhone to sell, no social network making millions off ad revenue and growing exponentially every month. Genentech had nothing to sell, yet it had millions of investors interested in its future because of the innovative biotech the company was researching and the amazing applications that things like man-made insulin and HGH could have.
I think that Genentech’s success as an IPO is a sort of Cinderella story which shows the advantages of speculation and investment in a time when many of us are highly critical of Wall Street and what it does. While many will write off Wall Street investors as sharks looking for a quick buck to take from someone else, they actually have some amazing effects on our economy. They help keep money flowing into smaller businesses and help them grow into massive companies that hopefully do something good for our society. The amazing stimulative power of Wall Street is a major part of the success of almost every tech company. While the success of these companies (and also Genentech) is never guaranteed, I believe that those who invest in their risky excursions ultimately help the world become a better place.
“Genentech and the origins of biotech were far more than the successful industrial application of a novel technology. A concentration of political, social, and economic factors and strategic, scientific, financial, and business decisions molded, shaped, stymied, and encouraged Genentech’s rise to the temporary pinnacle of its stock market debut.”- Hughes, page 164
After reading the book, the audience can question whether or not scientists are motivated by helping the people, or money. Even when visiting the Genetech website, they stress their dedication to the patients and the good of science. However, like any company the scientists must work in oder to please investors. If a product is not made in a timely manner successfully, the company will fall behind competitors. The website even lists reasons why people should invest in their company, all surrounding money obviously. People can become concerned projects are rushed, or not done to the best of the scientists ability in order to make certain deadlines or requirements. Regardless, Genetech is a multi-billion dollar company and is not lacking in investments.
We believe it’s urgent to deliver medical solutions right now – even as we develop innovations for the future. We are passionate about transforming patients’ lives. We are courageous in both decision and action. And we believe that good business means a better world.-www.gene.com
I was curious as we finished the book about Genentech, what they were doing in modern times. After some quick googling I learned that this year they celebrated thier 40th anniversary. In celebration the state of California created a biotechnology day on April 7th because in 1976 that is when “Biochemists Herb Boyer of the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University’s Stanley Cohen had developed the technology to clone genetically engineered DNA molecules in foreign cells” thus founding Genentech. I thought it is really cool that California is honoring Genentech’s accomplishments because they had such an impact on the field. I think this will help increase interest in biotech as well now that it has its own day.
Genentech informs a lot about the creation of insulin and briefly mentions the company’s experiences with both human insulin and animal insulin. Up until the 1980s, animal insulin was extracted from the pancreas’ of cows and pigs. As seen in the book, animal insulin eventually lost its usefulness. One major fear of doctors and those who required animal insulin was the possibility of getting bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease.” I was curious to know other reasons why human or genetically modified insulin is better than animal insulin. Live Strong informs that human insulin and animal insulin are not the same. One of the main advantages genetically modified insulin has over animal insulin is that it requires fewer resources to make and can be made quicker. GMO insulin can multiply rapidly, ultimately resulting in large quantities of the product, whereas animal insulin requires development of the animal pancreas, which can take years. Prior to the use of human and genetically modified insulin, researchers were skeptical as to whether or not animal insulin was as consistent. The insulin made by genetic engineering proved to be identical to human insulin produced by the pancreas, giving it yet another advantage over animal insulin. As for function, scientists discovered that animal insulin was ineffective in some patients. After a certain amount of treatment time, some diabetics developed antibodies against animal insulin. In addition, researchers found that animal insulin was transmitting diseases to humans. This is not a worry for GMO insulin users, as the production of the product involves no cross-contamination. On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages to the use of GMO insulin. For example, some patients have experienced severe allergic reactions, a few even resulting in death or severe sickness. Furthermore, GMO insulin is limited, making it difficult or expensive to obtain. Overall, this is interesting to consider as we continue to read Genentech.
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.
Like most technological break throughs, recombinant DNA at first wasn’t completely welcomed to the science world and many people were skeptical about it’s role and benefits in real world. Although now we know about its purpose and significance of it, there are still some concerns about it. First, lets start with the “pros” of recombinant DNA. Used in plants, plant breeders and farmers use it to create stronger, more durable, plants that could survive better and give humans better results in health. Furthermore, scientists have been able to construct plant DNA to withstand harmful bug invaders and pests that usually disrupt plant growth. They also can be altered to provide humans with more amino acids, fatty acids, and essential vitamins. However, along with benefits come concerns. Lately, with the growing funding for coming from the private sector, which allows companies to expand their research and obtain patents on discovered technology, which can hamper the progress that other companies are working towards in the field of biotechnology. Even more concerning is the thought that tough plants with genes able to survive and fight off disease and viruses, could mutate and create other diseases and viruses that are able to withstand other drugs.
The idea for Genetech originally came from Bob Swanson, a capital venturist with a love for chemistry and science in general. But, did the motivation behind starting the company come from his love of science and determination to make advancements in the field of biotechnology? Or did he just see a market that could be exploited to make himself a ton of money? Genetech was trying to replicate insulin genes and market it to people in need, such as those with diabetes. That sounds like a noble thing to do, but did Swanson really care about the advancements his team was making in the field? I doubt he would have continually looked for funding for his company if he did not see a huge payday at the end of the tunnel. I believe scientists, such as Cohen, genuinely want to help people and want to develop cures or treatments for different diseases. But venture capitalists, such as Swanson, are mainly along for the ride because they believe there will be a lot of money at the end of the road, and maybe even some fame to go with it.
“Swanson’s experience as a venture capitalist had centered on young Silicone Vally companies, each with products that had been prototyped and were nearing or on the market. Genetech presented a very different situation.” – Hughes (49)
The unfortunate reality, is that in order to conduct experiments and discover new things, you need resources, and resources are funded by money. Thus, in order to conduct experiments and move forward with your endeavor, you have to have funding; money.
The way in which most scientists go is that they search for investors that would be willing to sponsor and fund the project. the scientist(s) will then show this investor what they are working on and their current progress. However, earning the funds from venture capitalists has become increasingly difficult as the years have gone on. The competition is higher and there are simply more people looking for investors. It helps promote a higher level of discovery, but many groups projects get out on fault until they find someway to pay for their projects.
An alternative is to apply for a government grant. The government grant is something that scientists don’t necessarily drool over, but its something to get the wheels off the ground. Since its a government grant, it isn’t as efficient or lenient as a venture capitalist but again, its money that these groups of scientists need to move forward.
But go into the mind of a scientist, how would you like to be funded? Most people would answer venture capitalist. But whats the significance? Well, the significance is that Genetech had no prototype or model.In todays society it would be impossible to receive funding this way, however the guys at Genetech managed to earn money for their incredible work without having a tangible model to show what they were trying to accomplish. Its remarkable really. But, the important thing is that were able to somewhat avoid this difficult process of putting their project on hold to receive funds. They were still at the first stage of discovery so they were able to just hit the ground running with money, and go from there. Very unique situation.
In Chapter 2 of Sally Smith Hughes’ Genetech, the third part of the Genetech trio is introduced. Arthur Swanson was a young venture capitalist who had a special interest in recombinant DNA. He decided that there was a financial future in this new biotechnology field, and it could possibly be lucrative. It happens that Swanson was right, but not only in the case of Genetech. Biotechnology as a field has become wildly successful, and in massive need of huge amounts of venture capital. This article summarizes the amounts of capital invested in the state of Maryland, during the last quarter of 2015. In second place was biotech. Maryland companies such as “Precision for Medicine INC” pulled upwards of $75 million in venture capital. This local company that focuses on ways to personalize healthcare, was the second largest consumer of capital in the last quarter of 2015, in the state of Maryland. This revolutionary sector has proven to be a high consumer of venture capital, like Swanson predicted. It has become even larger than he could have ever predicted, and even more influential.
“The heart of [Boyer’s] problem, as they saw it, was that as a full-time, tenured professor he was simultaneously and inappropriately cofounder, vice president, board member, advisor, and major stockholder of a private company–Boyer’s company… As his severest critics put it, he was ‘selling out to industry.'” -Hughes, pg 71
I thought it was interesting that so many people were adamantly against the idea of Boyer working with Genentech. The idea that he was “selling out to industry” makes me wonder if many researchers at the time wanted science and industry to remain separate; maybe they thought scientific research should be motivated by curiosity and a need to understand how things work rather than attempting to turn a discovery into a product.
If that is the case, then I would certainly disagree with those types of researchers. Commercializing the product of an experiment can bring in money for the laboratory or university, providing funds that would allow them to do even more research. I’m not sure I see the logic behind these criticisms of Herb Boyer–an ideological disagreement, that I can see. Maybe these critics aren’t fond of the idea of a scientist being so involved in business. But calling it in appropriate?
The only concern I might have had regarding Boyer’s work with Genentech is simply the question of whether or not he has enough time to devote to both, and if not, then which would be his first priority? Teaching or business?
In these final weeks of the semester, our class is beginning the final book of our curriculum: Genentech by Sally Smith Hughes. It covers the rise of the biotech industry through the company Genentech and the groundbreaking work they did in order to create the biotech industry. Before going into the book, I decided to do a little research about the company. I found it funny that when I Googled their name, I was taken to www.gene.com, which is Genentech’s official web site. This simple web address kind of shows that the company has been around a long time. On their web site, they have tabs for scientists, job-seekers, media, and medical professionals, but I am led to a link lower down the page to a timeline celebrating Genentech’s 40th anniversary. An article about cloning insulin catches my eye, and reading it I see familiar names from Chapter 2, like Bob Swanson, Arthur Riggs, and Keiichi Itakura. It seems that Genentech is as proud of its history as Hughes is, and more than willing to share it! Either way, these “Genentech moments” on their web site seem like a great resource to use while reading the book, and I can’t wait to use them to supplement my reading!
Chapter 3 of Genentech mentions how Riggs applied for a grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct his research on somatostatin. I was curious how someone, or some company, would apply for a scientific grant today from the NIH and how the process worked. The following webpage from the NIH’s site explains how the full process is conducted. After determining a careful plan and deadlines, much like Riggs did with his three years of research estimation, the NIH provides a broad range of federal grant-making agencies that can provide one with funding opportunities. Once a company applies for a grant, the NIH’s Division of Receipt and Referral, within the Center for Scientific Review, will determine the area of research the application falls in and review it based on its how relevant it is. During months 4-8 of this process, the proposal will be peer reviewed and rightfully awarded thereafter. Progress reports must be made during the research and all results generating by the funded experiments must be made available to the public. I feel like the 9-10 months it takes to be awarded a grant is a long time, especially for scientists eager to test their theories, however having the process set up over this time period allows the CSR to fully review the applications. Overall, the process is rightfully tedious for the amount of money that can be awarded for research to discover new scientific things that can benefit the public.
“The biomedical research community, Cohen and Boyer prominently included, mounted an intense lobbying effort to persuade Congress not to impose legislative controls on scientifically significant research” (Hughes 66)
Throughout the course we have learned there are many obstacles in the way of scientific progress from money, police enforcement, and even trade. However, it appears that the biggest roadblock in the way of science might be the government. Throughout this book it seems that there are bureaucratic measures taken by the government that in turn results in the lack of progress in the world of science. However, it should be the case that science and government work hand in hand. The government should go out of the way to provide more opportunities to scientists rather than limit them. In today’s day and age scientists are looking for funding from venture capitalists rather grants or government subsidies. Therefore it appears to me the government should increase its involvement with science in order to provide improvement in the industry.
Sally Smith Hughes’ book, Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech, discusses the importance of biotechnology in the modern world of science. Specifically, she delves into the creation of Genentech as a biotechnology company, but first talks how recombinant DNA played a large role in the biotechnology community. She refers to recombinant DNA as a form of genetic engineering that is widely used. What is the most interesting about this chapter is the experiments conducted by Boyer and Cohen in which recombinant DNA was further investigated. Specifically, research was done on plasmids to understand if these forms of circular DNA would pick up different pieces of DNA and then be expressed in an organism different from the type of organism in which the original DNA came from. The great thing about science, is experiments can go wrong but allow for new discoveries to come about. This is exactly what happened with Boyer and Cohen. Hughes states,
“Boyer and Hellig examined the electrophoresis gels displaying the various DNA fragments. There in plain sight was telltale band composed of two types of plasmid DNA standing out in fluorescent orange . To their inestimable joy, they had not only recombined DNA – they cloned it! The engineered plasmids with their ability to reproduce themselves in the bacterial cells had also faithfully cloned the foreign DNA inserted into them” (p15).
This was interesting because it related directly back to Steven Johnson’s ideas of “happy accidents.” Boyer, Hellig, and Cohen were working to recombine DNA and to their surprise another result occurred. This now opened opportunities to investigate the cloning process and how DNA of many different organisms can be cloned and reproduced. Overall, this first chapter offers insight into the power of biotechnology and understanding how genes work.