Description (Brief)
On April 12, 1988, OncoMouse became the first animal to be patented in the United States (U.S. Patent 4,736,866). OncoMice are genetically modified to have an active cancer gene, making them very likely to develop cancer. Scientists hoped this trait would make the mice useful test subjects for cancer research.
In early 1983 Harvard University scientists Philip Leder and Timothy Stewart created OncoMice by using a fine glass needle to inject known cancer genes into mouse embryos just after fertilization. This genetic modification not only made the mice prone to cancer, but also ensured that they would pass the cancer genes to their offspring. American chemical company DuPont funded much of this research. As a result, Harvard gave DuPont priority to license the patent, making the company the sole distributor of OncoMice.
Transgenic non-human mammals, U.S. Patent 4,736,866, filed June 22, 1984, and issued April 12, 1988.
Douglas Hanahan, Erwin F. Wagner, and Richard D. Palmiter, “The Origins of Oncomice: A history of the first transgenic mice genetically engineered to develop cancer,” Genes and Development 21, no. 18 (2007): 2258–70.
Rosemary Robins, “Inventing Oncomice: making natural animal, research tool and invention cohere,” Genomics, Society and Policy 4, no. 2 (2008): 21–35.
Currently not on view
Object Name
overall: 1 1/4 in x 2 in x 3 1/4 in; 3.175 cm x 5.08 cm x 8.255 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Biotechnology and Genetics
Health & Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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