Herbert Boyer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Herbert Boyer
Boyer in 2005
Born (1936-07-10) July 10, 1936 (age 87)
Alma materSaint Vincent College (B.S., 1958)
University of Pittsburgh (Ph.D. 1963)
AwardsNational Medal of Science (1990)
Scientific career

Herbert Wayne "Herb" Boyer (born July 10, 1936) is an American biotechnologist, researcher and entrepreneur in biotechnology. Along with Stanley N. Cohen and Paul Berg, he discovered a method to coax bacteria into producing foreign proteins, which aided in jump-starting the field of genetic engineering.

By 1969, Boyer performed studies on a couple of restriction enzymes of the E.coli bacterium with especially useful properties. He is recipient of the 1990 National Medal of Science, co-recipient of the 1996 Lemelson–MIT Prize, and a co-founder of Genentech. He was professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and later served as vice president of Genentech from 1976 until his retirement in 1991.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Herbert Boyer was born in 1936 in Derry, Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, 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.


Boyer spent three years in postdoctoral work at Yale University in the laboratories of Professors Edward Adelberg and Bruce Carlton, and 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 Keiichi Itakura and Arthur Riggs at City of Hope National Medical Center described the first-ever synthesis and expression of a peptide-coding gene.[2] In August 1978, he produced synthetic insulin using his new transgenic genetically modified 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 Walter Gilbert's approach at Biogen which used whole genes from natural sources. Boyer built his gene from its individual nucleotides.

In 1990, Boyer and his wife Grace 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][4]

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.[5]

Among his professional activities, Boyer is on the board of directors of Scripps Research.[6]



  1. ^ "Shaping Life in the Lab: The Boom In Genetic Engineering: Genentech's Herbert Boyer". Time. February 9, 2002. Cover. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  2. ^ Itakura, K; Hirose, T; Crea, R; et al. (December 1977). "Expression in Escherichia coli of a chemically synthesized gene for the hormone somatostatin". Science. 198 (4321): 1056–63. Bibcode:1977Sci...198.1056I. doi:10.1126/science.412251. PMID 412251.
  3. ^ Yale and Medicine, 1951–2001: 1991–2001
  4. ^ Boyer Center Homepage Archived 2010-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Saint Vincent College announces naming of the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences – Saint Vincent College Archived 2007-12-31 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Seeking financial security, Scripps Research names new board members, San Diego Union Tribune
  7. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  8. ^ "2009 Honoree, Herbert W. Boyer, for Scientific Research" Archived 2010-06-26 at the Wayback Machine, Double Helix Medals, 2009, accessed Feb. 8, 2012.
  9. ^ "Biotechnology Heritage Award". Science History Institute. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  10. ^ Eramian, Dan (29 March 2000). "Genentech Founders Honored As Recipients Of Biotechnology Heritage Award". BIO. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
  11. ^ "Pitt Alumnus Herbert W. Boyer Shares $1 Million Shaw Prize | University of Pittsburgh News". www.news.pitt.edu. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  12. ^ "Winthrop-Sears Medal". Science History Institute. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  13. ^ "SCI Perkin Medal". Science History Institute. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  • They Made America by Harold Evans (Little Brown, 2004) and in the subsequent WGBH television series.