In 1972 at a scientific meeting in Hawaii, Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen met to discuss how their labs could collaborate. Herb’s laboratory at UCSF was studying how certain enzymes cut DNA and Stanley Cohen’s lab discovered how to get bacteria to take up DNA.
Their collaboration was close, and they shuttled experiments back and forth between the two campuses. This partnership ultimately played a key role is discovering recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology and founding Genentech. Read Biotech Basics to learn more about their first meeting and rDNA technology.
Good science doesn’t happen in a vacuum and curing diseases is going to require doctors, scientists and companies coming together.
Genentech pioneered rDNA technology, which came from an academic collaboration, to develop recombinant human insulin. Back then Genentech was a small fledgling company, so we partnered with Eli Lilly. We knew that Lilly would be able to test and market the medicine much faster than if we did it alone.
Recombinant human insulin became the first medicine to approved by the FDA to be made from rDNA technology. In the end, it was that first partnership that gave us the ability to start developing as a company.
Seeking good science
Today, our position is very different than it was 40 years ago. And while we’re extremely proud of our research and development programs, we recognize that we do not have a monopoly on ingenuity. Discovery happens every day, in academic labs, small biotech companies and even large pharmaceutical companies. We seek those discoveries that complement the work that we are doing here.
Consider antibody-drug conjugates. This type of medicine is designed to deliver chemotherapy directly to a cell that carries specific surface markers by linking it to an antibody. Our partner company was small, but expert in the complicated chemistry behind the linker technology.
They performed the early original and elegant work on the concept of an antibody-drug conjugate and the early work to do the initial chemistry. We contributed 30 years of research, the targeted medicine, and our expertise in antibody-engineering and in medicinal chemistry. By partnering early, we were able to create a brand new approach to treatment.
A wedding is not the same as a marriage
We close between 10 and 20 deals a year. And because we work with others in so many different ways, there is a lot of creativity in how we structure them. When we formalize a deal it’s a great thing. We celebrate because it’s good when like-minded people come together in the interest of science and patients.
After the celebration is done, the marriage begins. And like a marriage our relationships evolve, based on about what is in our best interests, what is the best interest of our partner. The most important consideration is what is in the best interest of patients. We look and hope to be sought by people who believe in our company’s mission to help people with serious or life-threatening conditions.
Working towards a common goal
In the end, the patient is the one who benefits from collaborations. Everything we do is concentrated on how we can better the lives of people in need. The best way to do that is to help each other create and execute new ideas.
Biotechnology is a community of scientists and business people, much like a beehive, where everyone works together towards a common goal. It’s a partnered world out there – in nature and at Genentech. `QED Mark`