Graphic: Cathleen Heard

Twenty years ago, venture capitalists knew little about biotechnology. The scientific community knew only a fraction more. "With respect to immune system hormones, not a single interleukin gene had been cloned by 1981. No cytokine had actually been purified to molecular homogeneity," writes Steven Gillis, chairman and CEO of Corixa Corp., a Seattle-based immunotherapeutics company.1 Gillis recollects that preclinical efficacy data in animals did not exist for the earliest recombinant technology, and investors had mostly naïve convictions about the likely outcome of commercial biotech ventures

"Naïvete was a wonderful catalyst for the birth of the biotechnology revolution," Gillis recalls in the same article. "Scientist entrepreneurs knew little of the technological pitfalls ... likewise, investors had little appreciation for the rigors of clinical trials, the politics of the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] advisory panels, and the massive impact these vagaries would play on their rate...

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