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Charles Weissmann Biogen Collection

Identifier: CWB

Scope and Content

The Charles Weissmann Biogen Papers are composed of material accrued by Weissmann during his affiliation with Biogen, located in Geneva, Switzerland and Cambridge, MA. The collection includes Biogen corporate documents and correspondence, Biogen financial information both about the company and its primary shareholders, product research and development, and a set of photographs. In addition, many of the files contain experiment result photographs. The product development and research focuses on genetically engineered interferons (IFN) and interleukin 2 (IL-2). Biogen, one of the first biotechnology companies, was founded in 1978 in Geneva by several biologists, including Phillip Sharp of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Walter Gilbert of Harvard (who served as CEO during the start-up phase).


  • Creation: 1977-1986


Language of Materials

Bulk in English; German as secondary language.

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.


Charles Weissmann was born on October 14, 1931 in Budapest, Hungary. He obtained his MD in 1956 and a Ph.D in Organic Chemistry in 1961 from Zurich University. Dr. Weissmann was director of the Institute for Molecular Biology in Zurich and President of the Roche Research Foundation from 1971-1977. In 1978, Charles Weissmann co-founded the biotech company Biogen in Geneva, Switzerland. Dr. Weissmann resigned from the Biogen Science Board in 1986 and the company merged with IDEC in 2003. He is Professor Emeritus of both the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science (IMS) and the Department of Infectious Diseases at Scripps Research Institute, Florida.

Dr. Weissmann is particularly known for the first cloning and expression of interferon and his contributions to the unraveling of the molecular genetics of neurogenerative prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Dr. Weissmann has won many awards, notably the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize in 2003 for his work with the purification, characterization, and cloning of human interferon-alpha.


57 Boxes : 24 linear feet.


The Charles Weissmann Biogen Collection documents the genesis of the biotechnology company Biogen through the files of Charles Weissmann, an original collaborator and board member. The collection is mainly institutional correspondence and administrative and financial records. Biogen is renowned for its work with interferons: proteins which are made and released by host cells in response to pathogens.

Arrangement Note

The material has been divided in 7 series.

Material from the accession was received in an unorganized state with little indication as to arrangement. Material was simply loose in the shipping box or grouped and bound by string. Attached to each box was a label indicating the subject matter of the contents; however, the actual content was often mixed and had to be resorted. Like material was grouped together and chronologically ordered by the processing archivist to assist researchers.

When available, Weissmann’s titles were retained and the series titles reflect as such. However, the majority of folder titles used in the finding aid were created by the processing archivist to best describe the material therein.

Interspersed in the Subject Research Files Series are notes indicating that documents were removed from the file folders as well as notes regarding BIOGEN v. Genentech/Laroche litigation. These files were compiled by Dr. Weissmann (as opposed to a secretary) and are listed as the titles appeared on file labels. Although there was not an apparent filing system when the files were removed from the boxes, they are now ordered alphabetically by folder title.


The collection was donated by Charles Weissmann. It was received and accessioned in 2008, and processed at CSHL Library and Archives in August-October 2011.

Related Collections

See the Biogen series of the Walter Gilbert Collection for more material on Biogen.


This collection was processed with funding provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Basic Processing Grant.

Charles Weissmann Biogen Collection
Under Revision
Finding Aid Prepared by Amy Driscoll. Finding Aid Updated by Em Longan, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA