Hannah Landecker

Professor (Sociology and the Institute for Society and Genetics)
University of California, Los Angeles


Hannah Landecker is a historian and sociologist of the life sciences. She holds a joint appointment in the Life and Social Sciences at UCLA, where she is a Professor in the Sociology Department, and the Institute for Society and Genetics, an interdisciplinary unit at UCLA committed to cultivating research and pedagogy at the interface of the life and human sciences. Landecker is the author of Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies (Harvard UP, 2007), and has written widely on biotechnology and society in work funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, The American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is co-director of the UCLA Center for Reproductive Science, Health and Education at UCLA, and a member of the Senior Editorial team of BioSocieties.



"Microbial Enzymes in Mass Production"

Humans have long taken advantage of microbial enzymes in traditional fermentation practices around the world. However, the late twentieth century saw a marked acceleration and transformation of their role in industrial production. The enzymes themselves were increasingly harvested as important functional components of commodities such as detergents and animal feeds, while fixed-enzyme systems enabled the efficient use of the catalytic power of intracellular enzymes to effect chemical transformations in the pharmaceutical, textile, and food manufacturing sectors. Modified penicillins and high fructose corn syrup were the first two large-scale and highly profitable uses of such fixed enzyme systems established in the 1970s. Today in the light of allergy diseases linked to detergents, antibiotic resistance, and metabolic disorders tied to dietary sugars and fats enabled by microbial enzymatic processing, it is urgent to understand the dimensions and implications of this recent large-scale shift in the technological relationship between humans and microbes.