Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science
Abstract: In 1980, as the first gene splicing firms were floated on the US stock market, what the public most wanted from biotech was interferon. This imagined cancer cure was a holy grail not just to patients, but to scientists vying for the honor of cloning it, and for the managers and investors in biotech firms seeking to monetize the science. Drawing on archival and courtroom evidence to look behind the scenes and resolve variations between competing accounts, this talk reconstructs the race to clone interferon in several commercially funded labs, and the extension of this scientific race into legal, regulatory and business domains. The larger aim is to show how in this earliest period of biotech, when the attention of life scientists converged on biological objects offering both intellectual and commercial reward, there emerged a mingled economy of scientific and financial credit which altered both regimes of value in particular ways.