5 Baby Boomer Biotech Influencers


The baby boomer generation is known for their resilience, as well as their ability to innovate, so it should be no surprise that many members of this creative group went on to develop some inspiring biotech advances. The baby boomers, usually born between 1945 and 1964 (although the dates vary based on which survey you reference) have done some noteworthy things over the years, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s when technology finally began to catch up with their ideas. So, here are some of the top biotech influences of this generation.

Dr. Peter Schultz of the The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Peter Schultz specializes in combinatorial chemistry, among many other things. Some of his developments involve using building blocks of amino acids to change the makeup of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and working to come up with the origins of mitochondria. Over the course of his career, Schultz has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Tetrahedron Prize and the 1988 NSF Alan T. Waterman Award. He currently still works for the Scripps Research Institute and helped found the California Institute for Biomedical Research.

Dr. David V. Goeddel of Genentech, Inc.

While working for Genentech (the first biotech company to effectively launch its own biopharmaceutical product in the 1980s), Dr. David Goeddel developed the very first synthetic human insulin, thus revolutionizing diabetes treatments. In addition to turning bacteria into insulin, he also created a human tissue plasminogen activator and human growth hormone using similar methods. For his efforts, Goeddel has received the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry and the Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Scheele Award. Overall, Goeddel was the third employee hired at Genentech back in 1978, and his efforts have made him somewhat of a legend in the biotech world.

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Dr. Maynard V. Olson of the University of Washington

Dr. Maynard V. Olson is best known as one of the founders of the Human Genome Project, the successful 13-year effort to decode human DNA. On top of that, he was involved in a project with his fellow University of Washington researchers, which led to the invention of artificial yeast chromosomes, and he currently specializes in the genetics of cystic fibrosis. Over the course of his long career, Olson received the Gruber Prize in 2007, the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 2002 and the Genetics Society of America medal in 1992.

Dr. Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington

Although Dr. Mary-Claire King is currently the American Cancer Society Professor of Genome Sciences and of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington, she’s best known for her breakthrough discovery of the BRCA1 gene while at the University of California, Berkeley. BRCA1, also known as the breast cancer gene, helped scientists realize, for the first time, that the disease has some genetic origins. It also helps women predisposed to the disease detect it in early stages and take preventative, lifesaving measures. She has been awarded a number of honorary degrees, as well as honors from the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Gruber Foundation. Her most recent award was the 2018 Advocacy Award from the American Society of Human Genetics.

Dr. Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute

Last but certainly not least, Dr. Craig Venter now runs his own nonprofit biotech company, but he’s best known for his work on the Human Genome Project, which he undertook while working for the National Institute of Health. His research has involved studying mRNA in the human brain, as well as helping found several biotech companies. For his efforts in the industry, he’s received a plethora of awards, such as the 2011 Dickson Prize in Medicine and the 2008 Double Helix Medal.

There are so many notable accomplishments shared among these amazing innovators, and yet, these are just five of the top baby boomers in the biotech world. Without question, this generation left its inspirational mark on the biotech industry.

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