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MIT Related to Top Biotech Companies

By Rochelle Tung

Companies founded by MIT faculty or alumni produced nine of the top ten best-selling biotechnology drugs in 1994.

This and other Institute contributions to biotechnology over the past two decades were presented in an Institute study released earlier this month entitled, "MIT, the Federal Government, and the Biotechnology Industry: A Successful Partnership."

The nine drugs were developed by three large biotech companies: Amgen, Biogen, and Genentech.

An additional 42 biotech companies are also founded by MIT faculty or alumni. The 45 companies combined employ 10,000 and have a total revenue of over $3 billion, almost one-fourth of the total revenues of U.S. biotech companies.

Biogen, co-founded by Professor of Biology Philip A. Sharp, was the first to develop the Intron A Alpha interferon used to treat 17 different types of cancers and viral infections, including hairy cell leukemia, Karposi's sarcoma, and hepatitis B and C. Sharp, a 1993 Nobel laureate, is head of the Department ofBiology.

Amgen was co-founded by former Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering Raymond F. Baddour ScD '49, and developed three top drugs:Neupogen, which boosts white blood cell production; Epogen, which stimulates red blood cell production for treatment of anemia; and Procrit, used to treat anemia from chemotherapy of AZT treatment of AIDS.

Genentech, the first major biotech company, was founded in 1976 by Robert A. Swanson '69. In 1977, Genentech produced the first human protein, somatostatin, in bacteria. Human insulin, the first recombinant DNA drug, was cloned in 1978 and marketed in 1982. The human growth hormone was cloned by Genetech scientists in 1979. Important modern drugs include Humulin, which treats diabetes, Engerix-B, which treats hebatgitis B, and Activase, which treats heart attacks and blood clots.

Other MITbiotech contributions

The study showed that the 30 MIT-related Massachusetts biotech companies have created 3,200 jobs, with total annual revenues of $520 million. All statistics were for 1994.

The Institute is awarded 30 to 40 biotechnology patents each year and has negotiated more than 100 license agreements with biotech companies since 1986. The licensee companies have attracted more than $630 million in investment capital and employ 1,200.

The study also found that of the $85 million in life science research conducted annually at MIT, about $75 million is federally sponsored.

MIT biology and biotechnology researchers work in the Department of Biology, the Center for Cancer Research, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. The Institute boasts five Nobel prizes in medicine or physiology since 1968.

It was not until recently that the Institute was noted for its biology and biotechnology advancement, in large part due to former department head Professor Gene M. Brown, said Vice President for Research and Dean for Graduate Education J. David Litster PhD '65.

Programs in the biological sciences were ranked first or second in the nation in a National Research Council study released last year.