Select Page

The development of biotechnology began about 40 years ago when genetic engineering was first invented. One of the companies that pioneered this field is Genentech. Contrary to popular belief, biotechnology does not involve laboratories. Humans have been using various forms of biotechnology for thousands of years. For instance, fermentation has been used to brew alcoholic drinks.

Modern biotechnology involves cell manipulation and genetic engineering and has been around for four decades. It was first introduced in 1973 when scientists engineered Escherichia coli to resist an antibiotic.

Through a process known as recombined, the researchers were able to cut the bacterial DNA. They then left uneven cuts on the DNA chain, which allowed foreign DNA to be inserted. The bacteria then used the new genetic information to form their genome.

The ability to create biological molecules using this technology could have a revolutionary impact on how we produce them. The technology needed to be licensed to the market to realize this process’s potential fully. In January 1976, a young venture capitalist named Robert Swanson called Herbert Boyer, the scientist who led the study. He was eager to discuss the commercial potential of the technology.

After meeting for several hours, the two agreed to form a company. They then made an initial investment of $500. The company’s name was derived from “gene engineering technology.”

First Owned Biotech

Genentech was founded on April 7, 1976. The company had no equipment, supplies, or even a secretary. In 1977, it produced a human protein known as somatostatin using a recombinant form of E.coli. In two years, Genentech was able to produce human insulin using this process. Previously, pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly used pig and cow pancreas to produce the hormone.

After its breakthrough, Genentech became the first biotechnology company to go public. In 1980, the company raised $35 million through an initial public offering. A major pharmaceutical company then acquired it in 2009. Genentech has over 15,000 employees today. Due to its multiple blockbuster drug success and enormous development pipeline, it frequently collaborates with other organizations.

Trends In Biotechnology

Genentech is only one of the many biotechnology companies that emerged during the early stages of the biotechnology industry. However, it has set many industry precedents. Genentech’s co-founders were able to set the industry standard for funding biotechnology companies by making their initial investments through venture capital. Due to the high risks and costs involved in starting a biotechnology company, venture capital is a common form of financing.

Genentech profited from its initial investment when a major pharmaceutical company acquired it. Today, many small biotechnology firms are focused on partnering with large organizations.

Genentech also played a significant role in establishing the legal boundaries of biotechnology. Before a major pharmaceutical company acquired it, it had been mainly restricted to only patenting molecules that were naturally occurring. In 1987, it lost a case in the UK regarding the patent for a recombinant version of a protein.

Since the first study on biotechnology was conducted in 1973, the field has made impressive advancements. Some of these include the development of gene editing tools such as CRISPR-Cas9, the development of immunotherapies, and treating diseases caused by the human microbiome. Despite the emergence of biotechnology in the US, it has gained widespread acceptance in Europe.

Due to the rapid pace of technological development, it is difficult to predict which innovations will significantly impact the biotechnology industry in the next 40 years. However, some of the companies that will be most successful will likely be inspired by Genentech.