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Gene Therapy Startups Extend Biotech’s Legacy

Botechnology is generally agreed to have originated in 1973, when Stanley N. Cohen and Herbert Boyer reported that they had engineered Escherichia coli to incorporate and express recombinant DNA. Just seven years later, in 1980, Wall Street saw the first initial public offering (IPO) of a biotech company, Genentech, based on recombinant human insulin. In that IPO, Genentech raised $35 million—about $112 million in 2020 dollars.

At the time, this was a stunning figure, but it would be unremarkable for a biotech IPO today. Now, 40 years later, healthcare stands transformed by the thriving science and business of biotechnology, where there is nothing remarkable about doctors prescribing recombinant proteins or antibodies, or about payors forking over tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for these high-tech treatments.

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