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Book Cover for: Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise, Nicolas Rasmussen

Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise

Nicolas Rasmussen

The scientific scramble to discover the first generation of drugs created through genetic engineering.

The biotech arena emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, when molecular biology, one of the fastest-moving areas of basic science in the twentieth century, met the business world. Gene Jockeys is a detailed study of the biotech projects that led to five of the first ten recombinant DNA drugs to be approved for medical use in the United States: human insulin, human growth hormone, alpha interferon, erythropoietin, and tissue plasminogen activator.

Drawing on corporate documents obtained from patent litigation, as well as interviews with the ambitious biologists who called themselves gene jockeys, historian Nicolas Rasmussen chronicles the remarkable, and often secretive, work of the scientists who built a new domain between academia and the drug industry in the pursuit of intellectual rewards and big payouts. In contrast to some who critique the rise of biotechnology, Rasmussen contends that biotech was not a swindle, even if the public did pay a very high price for the development of what began as public scientific resources. Within the biotech enterprise, the work of corporate scientists went well beyond what biologists had already accomplished within universities, and it accelerated the medical use of the new drugs by several years.

In his technically detailed and readable narrative, Rasmussen focuses on the visible and often heavy hands that construct and maintain the markets in public goods like science. He looks closely at how science follows money, and vice versa, as researchers respond to the pressures and potential rewards of commercially viable innovations. In biotechnology, many of those engaged in crafting markets for genetically engineered drugs were biologists themselves who were in fact trying to do science.

This book captures that heady, fleeting moment when a biologist could expect to do great science through the private sector and be rewarded with both wealth and scientific acclaim.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publish Date: May 15th, 2014
  • Pages: 264
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.51in - 6.02in - 0.90in - 1.10lb
  • EAN: 9781421413402
  • Categories: Industries - GeneralHistoryLife Sciences - Biology

About the Author

Rasmussen, Nicolas: - Nicolas Rasmussen is a professor of humanities at the University of New South Wales. His most recent book is On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine.
Praise for this book
Biologist and science historian Nicolas Rasmussen delicately unravels the tangled fibres of discovery, entrepreneurship and lab life in the first decades of genetic engineering . . . An engaging, ultimately elegiac tale of lost innocence, as researchers struggle with the angel of the search for truth on one shoulder, and the devil of wealth and fame on the other.
--Nathaniel Comfort, Nature
Gene Jockeys deftly conveys a sense of the excitement and technical challenges of this time when free-wheeling scientists pursued their passions in newly evolving commercial settings.
--Jonathan Khan, Journal of American History
Scholars generally should appreciate Rasmussen's careful research and the wide sweep of source material that he references in extensive notes.
--Sally Smith Hughes, Social History of Medicine
Rasmussen achieves admirably what he sets out to accomplish. . . Gene Jockeys will be the go-to source on the history of the biotech industry for some time to come, and particularly regarding the scientific and legal developments on which that industry's growth rested.
--Elizabeth Popp Berman, American Historical Review
This provides an engrossing blend of technical survey and business history reconmmended for science and business collections alike!
--Midwest Book Review
An engaging, informative work appropriate for general readers and beginning students of molecular biology or biotechnology.
Rasmussen's book deserves to be read by business historians, historians of science, journalists, and anyone who wants to better understand the early days of genetic engineering through the days of investor hype to the absorption of small biotech experiments by much greater entities.
--Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Overall, Gene Jockeys is an impressive book that brings together many known, but scattered, narratives with a new frame of reference. . . Any scholars interested in the history of early biotechnology will find Gene Jockeys essential reading.
--Journal of the History of Biology
It should be emphasized that although Gene Jockeys productively complements other historical accounts of biotech, the book also stands on its own quite well. Rasmussen's account owes much of its usefulness to his creativity and care in supporting his claims by drawing from the scientific literature, oral histories, and especially legal documents.
. . Any one interested in the history of modern biotech and the attitudes that shaped it will find valuable insights.
--The Biologist