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May 15, 1996

The Golden Helix: Inside Biotech Ventures

Author Affiliations

Genetics and Public Policy Studies The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Baltimore, Md

JAMA. 1996;275(19):1521-1522. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530430065045

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Recombinant DNA technology has already had two remarkable successes. Scientists have mapped the human genome, are well on their way to identifying the 80 000 or so genes arrayed along it, and are discovering the function of the genes already identified. Spawning the asociated multifaceted biotechnology industry has been the second success. Recombinant DNA techniques can mass-produce segments of DNA, including genes, and the proteins encoded by the genes. Consequently, a host of recombinant products has transformed the development of vaccines and drugs.

With these successes, Arthur Kornberg's title is not amiss figuratively or literally. But, as Kornberg candidly points out, "success in science" does not inevitably "lead to success in the market." Part of the book is devoted to mini-biographies of the businessmen (no women) and scientists who have contributed to the success of new biotechnology companies. Interestingly, few come from well-established families, suggesting, perhaps, that such backgrounds do