Genentech
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Genentech : The Beginnings of Biotech

By (author) Sally Smith Hughes

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In the fall of 1980, Genentech, Inc., a little-known California genetic engineering company, became the overnight darling of Wall Street, raising over $38 million in its initial public stock offering. Lacking marketed products or substantial profit, the firm nonetheless saw its share price escalate from $35 to $89 in the first few minutes of trading, at that point the largest gain in stock market history. Coming at a time of economic recession and declining technological competitiveness in the United States, the event provoked banner headlines and ignited a period of speculative frenzy over biotechnology as a revolutionary means for creating new and better kinds of pharmaceuticals, untold profit, and a possible solution to national economic malaise. Drawing from an unparalleled collection of interviews with early biotech players, Sally Smith Hughes offers the first book-length history of this pioneering company. Hughes provides intimate portraits of the people significant to Genentech's science and business, including co-founders Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson, and in doing so sheds new light on how personality affects the growth of science. By placing Genentech's founders, followers, opponents, victims, and beneficiaries in context, Hughes also demonstrates how science interacts with commercial and legal interests and university research, and with government regulation, venture capital, and commercial profits. Integrating the scientific, the corporate, the contextual, and the personal, Genentech tells the story of biotechnology as it is not often told, as a risky and improbable entrepreneurial venture that had to overcome a number of powerful forces working against it.

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  • Hardback | 216 pages
  • 154.94 x 233.68 x 20.32mm | 453.59g
  • 19 Oct 2011
  • The University of Chicago Press
  • University of Chicago Press
  • Chicago, IL
  • English
  • 0226359182
  • 9780226359182
  • 511,028

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Author Information

Sally Smith Hughes is 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 the creator of an extensive collection of in-depth oral histories on bioscience, biomedicine, and biotechnology.

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Review quote

"Sally Smith Hughes skillfully describes the improbable creation, difficult adolescence, immense prosperity, and eventual foundering of Genentech, the first biotech behemoth. It's a great tale, with a cast of fabulous characters and surprising episodes, ranging from Palo Alto to Wall Street. This is an outstanding book that should appeal to Nobel laureates as well as hedge-fund barons and ordinary citizens." -Daniel S. Greenberg, author of Science for Sale and Tech Transfer: Science, Money, Love, and the Ivory Tower"

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