[UCP Books]: Genentech

“My first job out of my postdoc was at Genentech in early 1981. At the time, I had no idea that all those guys in suits were doing something that had never been done before. But I did know the science was amazing—and Bob Swanson was the clear leader in creating an environment that supported that science. Sally Smith Hughes has brought to life the details of what the key players were up to—they weren’t playing it safe, and they created a catalytic environment that generated a whole new industry.”

Cynthia Robbins-Roth, author of From Alchemy to IPO: The Business of Biotechnology

 

Genentech
The Beginnings of Biotech
Sally Smith Hughes

Publication Date: October 19, 2011 $25.00 • £16.00
International publication date: November 14, 2011 978-0-226-35918-2
 
 
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 cofounders Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson, and in doing so sheds new light on how personality affects the growth of science. 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.
 
 
 
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.
 
Please contact Micah Fehrenbacher at (773) 702-7717 or micahf@uchicago.edu for more information.
 

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