linked with molecular biology, the insulin research involved organic chemists, a diverse group of pancreatic researchers, and biochemists. Moreover, the insulin research, in conjunction with contemporaneous rDNA research, transformed the practice of biochemistry in general, aligning it more closely with the methodology and techniques of molecular biology.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The links between biochemistry and molecular biology are the most salient place to begin analysis of interdisciplinary forces in this case study. The critical differences between biochemistry and molecular biology are actually a matter of debate and have certainly changed over time. As mentioned above, Paul Berg claims that molecular biology was an approach and philosophy toward bioresearch adopted by an increasing number of experimenters during the 1970s, and that the increase in this adoption was partially a function of the increasing availability of tools and technology (telephone interview with Paul Berg, Professor of Biochemistry, Stanford University, February 17, 1993). Gilbert, on the other hand, notes that while particular distinctions do not do justice to the set of skills possessed by a researcher in either field, biochemists might be more interested in activities such as the purification of proteins while molecular biologists would be more interested in the manipulation of DNA through the use of enzymes (telephone interview with Walter Gilbert, Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Harvard University, February 18, 1993).

Irrespective of definition, the insulin research sat clearly between the two disciplines. Moreover, the insulin research37 provided a framework for interaction between researchers. The alliance between the labs of Rutter and Goodman, discussed earlier, amply demonstrates the point. Rutter's lab was more specialized in biochemistry, while Goodman's lab contained a set of talented molecular biologists. Members of each lab provided critical inputs into the research process. For example, Ullrich's success in the insertion experiment was crucially dependent on the isolation and purification of mRNA insulin from rats. The purification process, which could not have been adequately achieved by any member of the Goodman lab, was beautifully handled by John Chirgwin, a member of Rutter's lab. These interactions led to the transmission of information between researchers from the two labs. Thus, for future research, the biochemists in Rutter's lab were able to leverage the new techniques of genetic engineering, while molecular biologists such as Ullrich became more acquainted with the techniques of purification. The application of molecular biology to insulin research resulted in an expansion of the skill base of both biochemists and molecular biologists.


Along with other work (e.g., human growth hormone).

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