David P. Holveck

Born: July 2, 1945 | Trenton, NJ, US

David P. Holveck begins his oral history by discussing his childhood in Philadelphia and his initial intent on becoming a physical therapist. After three years in the Navy, Holveck took a sales position at Blood Plasma and Components, and moved on to marketing, management, and executive positions at Abbott Laboratories, Corning Glass Works, General Electric Company, Centocor, and Johnson and Johnson. Holveck describes his involvement in the biotech industry, the evolution of X-ray technology, as well as the development of products such as Centoxin, Remicade, and ReoPro.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0178
No. of pages: 54
Minutes: 340

Interview Sessions

Sally Smith Hughes, Leon B. Gortler, Lara Marks and Ted Everson
2 February 1999, 14 July, and 20 October 2006
Radnor, Pennsylvania and Malvern, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

David P. Holveck begins the interview with a discussion about growing up in the Philadelphia area. He reveals that as a young adult he studied to become a physical therapist before spending three years in the Navy. Holveck's first job was at Blood Plasma and Components, selling blood components to local hospitals. Within a year he took a sales position at Abbott Laboratories. In 1975 Holveck left Abbott Laboratories to run Corning Glass Works' immunoassay franchise. He explains the technology behind Corning's immunoassay kits, then transitions into his move to General Electric in 1978, where he was hired to help form their computerized tomography (CT) business. Holveck describes the evolution of X-ray technology, and the major players in the early business. He then shares the origins of Centocor, founded by Ted Allen, Michael Wall, Hilary Koprowski, and Hubert Schoemaker, and his early collaboration with them. He left GE to head Centocor's marketing department, and later ran the diagnostics business. Holveck discusses the aftermath of Centocor's flagship drug, Centoxin, failing to earn FDA approval, and his promotion to CEO of the company in the midst of this crisis. He then describes the development of ReoPro and Remicade, and how their success led to Centocor's acquisition by Johnson and Johnson. Holveck notes his promotion to head of Johnson and Johnson's Development Corporation and his impending retirement. He reflects on the Philadelphia-area biotech industry, and the industry at large. Holveck concludes the interview by talking about his wife and children.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1968 West Chester University BS Education

Professional Experience

Abbott Laboratories

1971 to 1974
Sales Representative, Radio Pharmaceutical Division

Corning Glass Works

1974 to 1979
Sales Supervisor, Medical Products Division

General Electric Company

1979 to 1983
Manager of Digital X-Ray Program, Medical Systems Division
Marketing Manager of Vascular/Digital X-Ray Business, Medical


1983 to 1992
Executive Vice President and President of Diagnostics Division
1992 to 1999
President and Chief Executive Officer
1994 to 1999
Member, Board of Directors

Johnson and Johnson

1999 to 2003
Company Group Chairman
President, Johnson and Johnson Development Corporation


Year(s) Award

Man of the Year, Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, Greater New York Chapter

Table of Contents

Childhood and Early Career

Growing up in the Philadelphia area. Attending Malvern Preparatory School. Interest in the life sciences. Studying physical therapy at West ChesterUniversity. Service during the Vietnam War. Early marriage and first child. First marketing and sales job with Blood Plasma and Components. Transferring to Abbott Laboratories. Radioimmunassay technologies. Taking over the immunoassay business for Corning Glass Works. Immophase technology. The free T-4 test. Leaving Corning for General Electric's CT business.

Centocor's Origins

Monoclonal antibodies. Introductions to Ted Allen, Michael Wall, Hilary Koprowski, and Hubert Schoemaker. The 17-A antibody. The hepatitis testing kit. The 19-9 antibody. Centocor's early business plan. Working with Centocor while at GE. Being asked to head Centocor's marketing department. Moving back to Philadelphia from Wisconsin. Early impressions of Centocor. Contrast between Centocor and Hybritech's missions. Running the diagnostics business. Dividing Centocor into a diagnostics and a therapeutic company.

The Centoxin Era

Hiring James Wavle as co-CEO. R&D partnerships. Hiring Liz Tallett to head the pharmaceutical branch of Centocor. Expansion of infrastructure and employees. Company dynamics. Centoxin. Clinical trials. Lawsuit with XOMA. Alternate products (17-1A and ReoPro). Issues with the FDA.

The Centocor Comeback

Taking over as CEO. Centocor's fundraising activities. Partnership with Eli Lilly. ReoPro. 17-1A (Panorex). Remicade. Sale to Johnson and Johnson.

Johnson and Johnson and The Biotech Industry

quot;Running J&J's Development Corporation. Anticipating retirement in 2007. Philadelphia-area biotech development. Geographic assistance in biotech development. Regulatory issues. The Ben Franklin Partnership.

Personal Life

Holveck's wife, Patricia Ann. Daughters Lisa Marie and Jennifer Christine, and their children.


About the Interviewer

Ted Everson

Ted Everson, the director of clinical communications at Vital Issues in Medicine (VIM), a medical education company, earned a PhD in history and philosophy of science and technology from the University of Toronto and an MS in medical genetics from the University of British Columbia. During his tenure at CHF he founded the biotechnology program, which included focused scholarship on industry development. He is the author of The Gene: A Historical Perspective (2007), “Genetic Engineering Methods” in The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Technology (2004), and “Genetics and Molecular Biology” in History of the Exact Sciences and Mathematics (2002).

Sally Smith Hughes

Sally Smith Hughes graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1963 with an A.B. in zoology. She received her M.A. in Anatomy from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1966. In 1972, she earned her Ph.D. in the history of science and medicine from the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London. She served as postgraduate research histologist with the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco from 1966–1969, and as science historian for the History of Science and Technology program at the Bancroft Library from 1978–1980. Dr. Hughes was the Othmer Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 1997. She is presently research historian and principal editor on medical and scientific topics for the Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. She is author of The Virus: A History of the Concept, and is currently interviewing and writing in the fields of AIDS and molecular biology and biotechnology.

Leo B. Slater

Leo Slater was the 2001–2002 John C. Haas Fellow and a senior research historian at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, where he also served as Director of Historical Services from 1997 to 2000. A former research chemist at the Schering-Plough Research Institute, he received his doctorate in History from Princeton University in 1997.

Lara Marks

Lara Marks was educated at Sussex University and Oxford University, where she earned a doctorate in the history of medicine. Marks has held full-time research and teaching posts at Queen Mary College, London University; London School of Hygiene; and Tropical Medicine and Imperial College, London. She currently holds a visiting post at Cambridge University, and she is a senior research partner for Silico Research Limited, an independent organization that studies the life sciences industry. Marks’s publications include Sexual Chemistry: An International History of the Contraceptive Pill (2001) and “Assessing the Risk and Safety of the Pill: Maternal Mortality and the Pill,” a chapter in Risk and Safety in Medical Innovation (2006).