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Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Jordan Gutterman

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  • Chemistry
  • Communication
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine


THEROCKEFELLERUNIVERSITY pro bono humani generis 1230 YORK AVENUE - NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10021-6399 Joshua Lederberg UN!EX3-l-Y PROFESSOR July 31, 199.5 Dr. Jordan Gutterman M.D. Anderson Cancer Center U/Texas, Houston TX 77030 Dear Jordan I have nothing but gleeful approbation to offer for your essay on therapeutic research. I was particularly glad to have your own memoir on the development of interferon. I was in Bumet’s lab at Melbourne when we first had word of Alick Isaacs’ findings about it, in relation to viral interference in flu! So I am closer to that history than you might ever have thought. Patient capital is very much the key. Everything in our tax and financial assessment systems goes against it! And of course the bridging of the most basic research with applicability is the hardest. But capital also has to be wise. I’d guess there are 10,000 potential usefu! therapeutics to be gleaned from the 100,000 units of the human genome alone. At $10^8 each, their total development would be about a trillion dollars -- or the total of our health care expenditure for the foreseeable future. A prudent triage is inevitable, even for products that might be technical successes. The marketing of venture investments has to be made more authentic, and get better substantive advice. I’ve had little (but some) luck trying to convey that to Wall Street in this town. I tried to introduce the ideas we now call combinatorial chemistry in 1956 (sic); and this met with no success at all for over 30 years! It just didn’t fit the culture; nor could I get funding to pursue it. Well, you know what has happened now, but how many more fruits there might have been in the interval! Not to mention my own being passed over -- on that one; but who’s to complain. I love that quote from Voltaire; but you have it second hand. Can you corroborate it? “Doctors pour drugs of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, into human beings of which

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