Faded Genes

Slow start for bioengineering

Like a highly touted rookie who does nothing but strike out once the baseball season begins, genetic-engineering companies are having trouble living up to their early billing. A year ago, they were among the hottest companies on Wall Street. Stock in Genentech, the first of the leading firms to offer its shares to the public, jumped from $35 to $89 during the opening few minutes of trading in October 1980.

Many of the wonder-drug companies, though, are not finding easy profits in their test tubes. In February, Bethesda Research Laboratories, of...

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