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A Biotech Pioneer Goes After Big New Game


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A BIOTECH PIONEER GOES AFTER BIG NEW GAME

David Goeddel wants to exploit chemicals that turn genes on and off

Even in biotech pioneer Genentech Inc.'s notoriously hard-driving culture, David V. Goeddel had an intensity that few could match. The boyish PhD routinely worked 80-hour weeks and slept at the lab. By his 30th birthday, he had taken over molecular-biology research. For 15 years, he was the industry's most productive scientist. He and his team produced Genentech's first five products, including the heart-attack drug TPA, and published dozens of papers in scientific journals. On his rare vacations, he climbed serious mountains.

Now, Goeddel is channeling energy in a new direction. At 41, he's leaving Genentech to head research at Tularik Inc., a biotech startup he helped found just over a year ago and for which he has been working part-time. So far, Tularik has raised $12 million to corner a risky new technology involving so-called transcription factors. They are special chemicals the body makes that turn genes on and off. Tularik hopes to exploit the concept to find drugs for hepatitis, herpes, high cholesterol, and other conditions.

TRADEMARK GRIN. In the late 1970s, molecular biologists such as Goeddel became expert at gene-splicing, or using genes to produce natural proteins that can be used as drugs. Genentech, which in 1990 sold 60% of itself to Swiss giant Roche Holding Ltd. for $2.1 billion, has kept its focus on these protein-based drugs. But many complex diseases such as cancer and AIDS haven't responded well to single-protein drugs. Proteins can be expensive to make and must also be injected, rather than packed into pills. Those limitat

Kathy Rebello in Cupertino, Calif.


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