The Interferon Tournament: Economies of Honor and Credit in Early Biotech

Thursday, Apr 16, 2015 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm

16 April 2015 (Thursday), 4:00-5:30 p.m.

Nicolas Rasmussen, M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., M.P.H. (Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales)

"The Interferon Tournament: Economies of Honor and Credit in Early Biotech"

Abstract: In 1980, as the first biotech firms were floated on the US stock market, what the public most wanted from gene splicing 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 commercial 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 activity 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.

Light refreshments will be available for attendees who confirm before noon on Monday, April 13.  (Please be advised that we require reservations because of university policy; we must submit a list of confirmed attendees when placing our catering order. In addition, we made need to move to a larger venue depending on audience size; reservations permit us to contact attendees ahead of time.)

Seating is limited; reservations are required. Reservations may be made contacting History & Special Collections for the Sciences (voice: 310.825.6940; email: 

This UCLA History of Medicine and Medical Humanities Research Forum (this is the 26th meeting of the series) is made possible by the History & Social Studies of Medicine Program, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and by History & Special Collections for the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections.