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Herbert W. Boyer
Born July 10, 1936 (1936-07-10) (age 73)
Occupation Biochemist

Herbert W. Boyer (born July 10, 1936) is a recipient of the 1990 National Medal of Science, and co-recipient of the 1996 Lemelson-MIT Prize and a co-founder of Genentech. He served as Vice President of Genentech from 1976 through his retirement in 1991.[1]

Life and career

Boyer was born in Derry, Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Saint Vincent College in the Latrobe suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1958. He married his wife Grace the following year. He received his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh in 1963 and participated as an activist in the civil rights movement. He spent three years in post-graduate work at Yale University in the laboratories of Professors Edward Adelberg and Bruce Carlton, then became an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and a Professor of Biochemistry from 1976 to 1991, where he discovered that genes from bacteria could be combined with genes from eukaryotes. In 1977, Boyer's laboratory and collaborators at City of Hope described the first-ever synthesis and expression of a peptide-coding gene.[2] In August 1978, he produced synthetic insulin using his new transgenic bacteria, followed in 1979 by a growth hormone.

In 1976, Boyer founded Genentech with venture capitalist Robert A. Swanson. Genentech's approach to the first synthesis of insulin won out over Wally Gilbert's approach at Biogen which used genes from natural sources. Boyer created his gene de novo from its individual nucleotides.

In 1990 April, Boyer and his wife Marigrace gave the single largest donation ($10,000,000) bestowed on the Yale School of Medicine by an individual. The Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine was named after the Boyer family in 1991.[3]

At the Class of 2007 Commencement, St. Vincent College announced that they had renamed the School of Natural Science, Mathematics, and Computing the Herbert W. Boyer School. [4]



They Made America by Harold Evans (Little Brown, 2004) and in the subsequent WGBH television series.



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