In 1976, Genentech, the first biotechnology company, was founded by a young venture capitalist and a university professor to exploit recombinant DNA technology. Thirty years and more than $300 billion in investments later, only a handful of biotech firms have matched Genentech's success or even shown a profit. No avalanche of new drugs has hit the market, and the long-awaited breakthrough in R&D productivity has yet to materialize. This disappointing performance raises a question: Can organizations motivated by the need to make profits and please shareholders successfully conduct basic scientific research as a core activity?
From the October 2006 issue of Harvard Business Review.