Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech (University of Chicago Press, 2011) tells many stories of many things. It is the story of a handful of people who figured out how to make recombinant DNA technology into a thriving business. It is the story of the emergence of a new hybrid organism, the entrepreneurial biologist, who lived with one leg in academia and one in corporate research. It is the story of a series of compounds that became big business in the American corporate world: human insulin, human growth hormone, and interferon among them. Drawing on a series of fascinating oral histories, Sally Smith Hughes recounts all of these tales as they unfolded in a volatile environment sparking with questions over the political and ethical implications of recombinant DNA technology: Could living organisms be patented? Did scientists own their research materials? When a team of scientists discovered something that was worth millions or billions of dollars, who should get credit and reap the rewards? Hughes’ story manages to address these major issues without sacrificing the human stories and colorful characters behind the rise of Genentech.
For the Bancroft Library Program in Bioscience and Biotechnology Studies Regional Oral History Office, see this website.