Two executives at Hybritech, Inc. in San Diego, Thomas H. Adams, Senior Vice-President of Research, and Howard Birndorf, Vice-President of Business Development, leave the company to start up a new firm called Gen-Probe. In February 1983, Hybritech’s chief scientist, Gary David, introduces Adams and Birndorf to a friend, David Kohne, a University of California, San Diego biologist who has developed and patented a method for the in vitro detection of disease-causing microorganisms using nucleic acid probes. Adams and Birndorf want Hybritech to commercialize Kohne’s work, but Hybritech CEO Ted Greene is afraid that the project might be defocusing for the small monoclonal antibody company. Adams and Birndorf each put in $50,000 to support Kohne’s research for a year, and assign technical milestones that they want Kohne to meet before proceeding further. Kohne achieves the goals. In August of 1983, Adams and Birndorf decide to leave Hybritech and start Gen-Probe. Ted Greene invests $1 million of Hybritech’s cash in the venture. Hybritech Chairman Brook Byers pledges another $1.5 million from his venture capital firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Gen-Probe is the first of many dozens of biotech companies started in San Diego by Hybritech alumni. The company enjoys great technical success, but is battered by the October 1987 market crash shortly after its IPO. The stock never recovers, and the company is acquired  by Chugai Pharmaceuticals in 1989 for $100 million. Gen-Probe continues to be one of San Diego’s largest biotech employers.

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