Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • CORRESPONDENCE

Genentech was not the first biotech company

In his illuminating history of corporate research, Paul Lucier repeats the common mistake of calling Genentech the first biotechnology firm (Nature 574, 481–485; 2019). Cetus was founded five years earlier, in 1971, by Nobel-prizewinner Donald Glaser and others. It initially developed microbial processes for producing chemical feedstocks, including propylene oxide and antibiotic intermediates. The corporation later pivoted to therapeutics.

Genentech was backed by venture capital. Cetus was funded largely by other means, including support from Standard Oil. Consequently, Cetus and a few other early biotech companies — Irvine Scientific, Gamma Biologicals and Cell Associates among them — have been overlooked or long forgotten because of a history that equates biotech with venture-capital-funded drug discovery.

Nature 577, 622 (2020)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-00187-1

Subjects

Nature Careers

Jobs

Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links