The Origins of the Biotechnology Industry – Cetus Corp. in Berkeley, California

Contrary to a belief by many because of a false narrative often propagated by venture capitalists, the first biotech company was Cetus Corporation of Berkeley, CA, not Genentech of South San Francisco, CA. Cetus was co-founded by UC Berkeley faculty member, Dr. Donald Glaser, Ph.D., a Nobel Prize awardee. Amongst other accomplishments, Cetus developed Betaseron and Proleukin, and the PCR methodology that it out-licensed. Cetus was formed in 1971, five years before the inception of Genetech in 1976. Venture capitalists had no significant involvement in Cetus. Kary Mullis, who attained his Ph.D. at Berkeley, developed PCR while at Cetus, and is the only biotech employee to have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Imagine the world without PCR. Without PCR we wouldn’t have : DNA cloning for sequencing, gene cloning and manipulation, gene mutagenesis; construction of DNA-based phylogenies, or functional analysis of genes; diagnosis and monitoring of hereditary diseases; amplification of ancient DNA;analysis of genetic fingerprints for DNA profiling (for example, in forensic science and parentage testing); and detection of pathogens in nucleic acid tests for the diagnosis of infectious diseases (Kaunitz, 2015).

Although PCR has transformed the world, the technology does have inherent errors that constrain the interpretation of any analysis using the methodology. And with healthcare driven by profit motive, the use of PCR by commercial interests in the healthcare space is rife with fraud and incompetence, often making the use of this technology a detriment to health. I detail many of the problems with PCR based diagnostics in my new book, Thinking And Eating For Two: The Science of Using Systems 1 and 2 Thinking to Nourish Self and Symbionts(Maguire, 2020).


Bains W (2020) Genentech was not the first biotech company. Nature, doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-00187-1

Kaunitz JD (2015) The Discovery of PCR: ProCuRement of Divine Power. Dig Dis Sci. 2015 Aug; 60(8): 2230–2231.

Maguire G (2020) Thinking And Eating For Two: The Science of Using Systems 1 and 2 Thinking to Nourish Self and Symbionts. Smashwords, Los Gatos, CA.

Published by Dr. Greg Maguire, Ph.D.

Dr. Maguire, a Fulbright-Fogarty Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, is a scientist, innovator, teacher, healthcare professional. He has over 100 publications and numerous patents. His book, "Adult Stem Cell Released Molecules: A Paradigm Shift To Systems Therapeutics" was published by Nova Science Publishers in 2018.

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