Nicolas RasmussenGene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on January 30, 2015

Nicolas Rasmussen

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNicolas Rasmussen’s new book maps the intersection of biotechnology and the business world in the last decades of the twentieth century. Gene Jockeys: Life Science and the Rise of Biotech Enterprise (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014) takes readers into the fascinating world of entrepreneur-biologists as they developed five of the first products of genetic engineering. Based on a documentary archive that includes oral history interviews and corporate documents resulting from patent litigation, Rasmussen’s book emphasizes the agency of the biologists in in driving the development of first-generation recombinant DNA drugs like insulin, human growth hormone, and interferon. After an introduction to the development of basic molecular biology in a Cold War context – and paying special attention to the ways that Kuhn’s notion of “normal science” helped shape the discipline – the ensuing chapters each present a case study that illustrates an important aspect of the history of biotech’s rise as manifest in laboratories, courtrooms, universities, freezers, markets, and the public arena. Gene Jockeys closes with a chapter that considers the policy lessons that can be taken from this story.

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