IP vision blog banner

IPVision Blog

Honoring 25 Years of Lemelson-MIT Prize Winners: 1996 Winners Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer

IPV Blog Images-68

As we focus on past Lemelson-MIT Prize Winners, we turn next to the winners of 1996, who opened the door to genetic engineering. Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer laid the foundations for gene therapy and the biotechnology and received the top prize of $500,000 for their innovations.

About Cohen and Boyer

In 1972, Boyer and Cohen met in Hawaii while presenting papers at a conference on bacterial plasmids.

cohenCohen, a Stanford University professor, had been working on ways to isolate specific genes in antibiotic carrying plasmids and clone them individually through introducing them to E. coli bacteria.


Boyer, from the University of California, San Francisco, haddiscovered a restriction enzyme that cut DNA strands at specific DNA sequences, producing "cohesive ends" that could stick to other pieces of DNA.

Following the conference, while eating hot pastrami and corned beef sandwiches the two colleagues discussed using plasmids as a vector for cloning individual DNA segments. They agreed to work together, and in soon succeeded in splicing a piece of foreign DNA into a plasmid carrier, which then inserted genetic information into a bacterium. When the bacterium reproduced, it copied the foreign DNA into its offspring, acting as a natural factory producing biological substances.

By genetically engineering cells to produce human substances, Boyer and Cohen invented a quick and easy way to make chemicals like HGH (human growth hormone), synthetic insulin, factor VIII for hemophilia, somatostatin for acromegaly and clot-dissolving agent tissue plasmogen activator (tPA).

Cohen and Boyer’s Innovation Impact

As of the end of 1996 the US Patent Portfolio of Cohen and Boyer consisted of 12 US patents and no published US patent applications.

As of the end of 2019 the US Patent Portfolio of Cohen and Boyer consisted of 33 US patents and 12 published US patent applications, together with the Cohen & Boyer Patents, the “Cohen & Boyer Patent Properties.”

cohen and boyer mapWe produced two “Forward Citation Landscape Maps” for the Cohen & Boyer Patent Properties that were issued or published as of 1996 – the year of that Cohen & Boyer were awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize.

Forward Patent Citation Landscape Maps™ of Cohen & Boyer 1996

 U.S. Patent Properties

As of 1996 - The Year Cohen & Boyer Won

As of 2019

1996 cohen boyer 2019 cohen boyer

View Live IPVision Map™Link to Map

View Live IPVision Map™Link to Map

 Stanford University licensed the two core Cohen-Boyer patents in a way that enabled the biotechnology industry. The terms were generally a $10,000 license issuance fee and a royalty that started at 0.25% and went down, depending on the nature of the product that used the patented technology. Stanford received over $250M from licensing these patents.

Categories: Patent Landscape, Lemelson-MIT Program