Email this review


A measured appraisal of the key role played by universities in the emergence of a US biotechnology industry (which has attracted $3 billion in venture capital in the past decade). Kenney (agricultural economics/Ohio State) also examines important issues raised by the increasing involvement of educational institutions in commercial enterprises. The productive employment of microorganisms and biological processes dates back to 6000 B.C. when the Babylonians fermented a kind of beer. But Kenney's focus is on the techniques with applications potential in agricultural, health care and the other mass markets that have emerged since the 1970's, primarily as a result of the 1953 discovery of DNA. He also reviews the wealth of ways in which the rush to exploit biotech has altered the character of research departments at universities and allied institutions. Among others, he probes the $70-million contract that binds Massachusetts General Hospital to Hoechst A.G., a West German multinational. Covered as well are instances in which attractive financial inducements have been used to recruit talented professors for start-up firms that aggressive Wall Streeters hope to take public. Kenney maintains that the campus/corporate connection is a risky business on several counts. For one, power of the purse allows sponsors to set the R&D agenda to programs promising near. term payouts; thus, some Faustian bargains have been struck with basic research the loser. Too, there's the good chance that chronically needy universities and faculty might be co-opted if not corrupted by industry. Kenney's dispassionate text will not put a conclusive end to the curiously muted debate now in progress, but it represents a valuable contribution to these vital proceedings.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0300042094
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press