updated 4/23/2004 9:31:15 PM ET 2004-04-24T01:31:15

Two researchers whose work led to genetic engineering and the multibillion-dollar biotechnology industry are receiving the nation's richest prize for medicine and biomedical research.

Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Genentech co-founder Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco are sharing the Albany Medical Center Prize. The $500,00 award is second only to the $1.4 million Nobel Prize in monetary value.

The two formed a partnership in 1972 that led to the development of recombinant DNA a year later. The technology, which involves moving genes from one organism to another, lets scientists isolate and clone genes in living cells.

Their research paved the way for mass production of hormones and other chemicals once made only by the human body, such as insulin for treating diabetes. It also gave rise to genetically modified plants that are more pest and disease-resistant.

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