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Science, the State, and the CityBritain's Struggle to Succeed in Biotechnology$
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Geoffrey Owen and Michael M. Hopkins

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198728009

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198728009.001.0001

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The US Takes the Lead

The US Takes the Lead

(p.12) 2 The US Takes the Lead
Science, the State, and the City

Geoffrey Owen

Michael M. Hopkins

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how the first American biotechnology firms were formed through collaboration between academic scientists and venture capitalists, with Genentech, founded in 1976, blazing a trail which many others followed. Its spectacular 1980 flotation on the stock exchange marked the beginning of ‘biomania’ among investors, and although stock market attitudes to the biotech sector fluctuated during the 1980s, there were enough successes to keep investors interested and encourage other scientist-entrepreneurs to enter the field. The growth of the sector over the next two decades was reinforced by supportive government policies, by the emergence of two highly productive biotech clusters in Boston and San Francisco, and, from the 1990s onwards, by closer links with Big Pharma, some of them involving mergers and acquisitions. The chapter shows how the sector recovered from the setbacks of the early 2000s and then from the world financial crisis of 2008–2009, and describes the remarkable surge in biotech flotations on NASDAQ in 2013–2015. The concluding section assesses the sources of strength in US biotech.

Keywords:   American capitalism, recombinant DNA, venture capital, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology clusters, Boston and San Francisco, technology transfer, stock markets, institutions

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