In 1975 two Cambridge scientists published a short article in Nature which announced the discovery of monoclonal antibodies. The article concluded ‘Such cultures could be valuable for medical and industrial use’. The interest which developed by the end of the decade in the industrial and financial possibilities of the new prospects opening up in biotechnology was to throw the apparent ‘failure’ to follow‐up the potentialities of this discovery into a public prominence rarely achieved by scientific discoveries. By the time Mrs Thatcher came to power it had become a scandal, another example of Britain's apparent inability to exploit effectively the brilliance of its scientific base. It was to explore both the process of scientific discovery and the conditions in Cambridge which nurtured it, and the issues which this particular discovery raised in the area of technology transfer (and the changes of policy that ensued), that the Wellcome Trust's History of Twentieth Century Medicine Group and the Institute of Contemporary British History organised this special witness seminar. It was held at the Wellcome Trust in London on 24 September 1993. The seminar was chaired by Sir Christopher Booth and introduced by Dr Robert Bud of the Science Museum. Those participating included the two authors of the Nature article, Dr César Milstein and Dr Georges Köhler, who received a Nobel Prize for their research, Dr Basil Bard (National Research Development Corporation [NRDC] 1950–74), Sir James Gowans (Secretary of the Medical Research Council [MRC] 1977–87), Sir John Gray (Secretary of the MRC 1968–77), John Newell (BBC World Service science correspondent 1969–79), Dr David Owen (MRC), and Dr David Secher (Laboratory of Molecular Biology [LMB], Cambridge). There were also contributions from Dr Ita Askonas (former head of immunology at the National Institute for Medical Research), Dr John Galloway (former member of MRC headquarters staff), Dr David Tyrrell (former Director, MRC Common Cold Unit), Professor Miles Weatherall (head of Therapeutic Research Division, Wellcome Research Laboratories 1967–75), Dr Guil Winchester (post‐doctoral fellow, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine), and Dr Peter Williams (former Director of the Wellcome Trust). The organisers would like to thank the Wellcome Trust for hosting and sponsoring the seminar. We would like to dedicate this publication to the memory of Georges Köhler, who sadly died in April 1995 before this could appear.