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1976: First Genetic Engineering Company

Illustration of double helix structureThe first genetic engineering company, Genentech, was founded in 1976.

Herbert Boyer, one of the creators of recombinant DNA technology in the early 1970s, founded Genentech with venture capitalist Robert Swanson. In 1977, the company produced the first human protein in a bacterium. The San Francisco Bay area company isolated the genes for human insulin and growth hormone and, by 1982, marketed the first recombinant DNA drug, human insulin. The company proceeded to either market or license the marketing of Factor VIII, a blood clotting factor; growth hormone; interferon molecules to treat certain kinds of leukemia and immune deficiencies; tissue-plasminogen activator (TPA) to dissolve blood clots in patients with heart attack or stroke; and hepatitis B vaccine, among other products.

In the 24 years after Genentech's founding, the biotechnology industry grew to include nearly 9000 companies.

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Last updated: April 26, 2013