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It was October 1980. Ronald Reagan was about to be elected president. The United States was in the throes of the Cold War. And Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” dominated the Billboard charts. And an new industry was born — biotech — with the initial public offering of a company called Genentech.

This was a company that was 4 years old and had no products on the market and negligible revenue. But the promise of creating drugs using living cells was so alluring to Wall Street investors none of that mattered. When the company’s 1 million shares hit the market, they sold out. Genentech raised $38.5 million in one day, according to news reports at the time. In today’s dollars, that would be over $110 million. 


Listen to the last episode of the podcast: A shoppers guide to the genome sequencing market

In the newest episode of Signal, we explore the birth of biotech and the big business behind how our drugs really get made.

To do that, we need to take you to San Francisco. About this time every year, biotech nerds everywhere are gearing up to go to San Francisco for the biggest annual event on the financial side of the industry — the J.P. Morgan health care conference. The sheer size and frenzy of this gathering shows how in just 35 years, since Genentech went public, the biotech industry has exploded.

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The Signal podcast is produced by Katie Hiler.
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