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Isis. 2001 Sep;92(3):541-75.

Making dollars out of DNA. The first major patent in biotechnology and the commercialization of molecular biology, 1974-1980.

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Regional Oral History Office, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


In 1973-1974 Stanley N. Cohen of Stanford and Herbert W. Boyer of the University of California, San Francisco, developed a laboratory process for joining and replicating DNA from different species. In 1974 Stanford and UC applied for a patent on the recombinant DNA process; the U.S. Patent Office granted it in 1980. This essay describes how the patenting procedure was shaped by the concurrent recombinant DNA controversy, tension over the commercialization of academic biology, governmental deliberations over the regulation of genetic engineering research, and national expectations for high technology as a boost to the American economy. The essay concludes with a discussion of the patent as a turning point in the commercialization of molecular biology and a harbinger of the social and ethical issues associated with biotechnology today.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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