Recombinant DNA and the Birth of Biotech Recombinant Drugs

After figuring out how to grow recombinant bacteria on an industrial scale and how to harvest the insulin they produce, it was time to bring the recombinant insulin to the market. In 1982 Food and Drug Administration approved Humulin, Eli Lily’s recombinant insulin made from Genentech’s specially modified bacteria. It was the first drug produced through recombinant DNA technology and among the first genetically engineered products to be available to consumers.

Following the success of Humulin, recombinant DNA technology was quickly adopted to replace older methods of producing medical products from human growth hormone to vaccines. Although scientists have since developed new biotechnology techniques, recombinant DNA still plays an important role in the production of several major medical products. Among the objects below are several of the early formulations of Humulin as well as some of the other early recombinant pharmaceuticals produced in the 1980s and 1990s.