Since the earliest days of the biotechnology endeavor, scientists have sought a practical way of co-opting the complex biological machinery that regulates DNA. From the moment they identified the intriguing enzymes that choreograph the dance of DNA replication, biotechnologists began developing ways to commander them; the swivelases and gyrases, forms of unwinding proteins that untwist the molecule; the nucleases, which snip it; the strands; the ligases, which tie these strands together; and even a contingent of repair of repair enzymes, which oversees the entire, multistep event.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) capitalizes on this biological toolbox by manufacturing millions of copies of desired piece of DNA. Invented in 1985 by Kary Mullis, Henry Erlich, and their colleagues at Cetus Corp. of Emeryville, Calif. (Science, 230: 1350-4), the technique has had an enormous impact on the field of biotechnology. Cetus joined with the Norwalk, Conn.-based Perkin-Elmer Corp. to form Perkin-Elmer Cetus...

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