Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Lewis was an American developmental geneticist who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development. He made these discoveries based on the fruit fly. By crossbreeding thousands of flies he demonstrated that genes were arranged on the chromosome in the same order as their body segments, whereby the first set of genes controls the development of the head and thorax, the middle set the abdomen, and the final set the hind parts. He also discovered that the genetic regulatory functions could overlap. A fly with a defective gene in the thoracic region could develop an extra set of wings. His work helped explain the causes of congenital deformities. 2004-07-21T00:00:00+0000Crick is best known for the work he did with James Watson that identified the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962. He also developed the central dogma of molecular biology which explained how genetic information flowed within a biological system, moving from DNA to RNA and then protein. His subsequent work looked at the way in which the brain works and the nature of consciousness.2004-07-28T00:00:00+0000Hounsfield was an English electrical engineer who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the development of X-ray computer assisted tomography. During the 1960s he built an apparatus that would allow for clusters of X-ray beams to be sent through the body at different angles that would be translated into three-dimensional images. The first CT scanner was introduced into medical practice in 1971. It was used to diagnose a cerebral cyst on a patient at Atkin Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, Loondon. By 1975 Hounsfield had built a whole-body scanner.2004-08-12T00:00:00+0000Bergstrom was a Swedish biochemist who shared the 1982 Nobel Prize for Medicine for isolating and elucidating the chemical structure of prostaglandins. Found in most tissues and organs in humans and mammals, Bergstrom helped show that this class of biochemical compounds formed from unsaturated fatty acids and demonstrated their important role in many physiological processes in the body, including causing inflammation after injury or illness, the clotting of blood and uterine contractions. He and his team revealed that prostaglandins act locally near their site of production, act differently in different tissues and are metabolised very quickly. This opened up new pathways for the treatment of heart disease, strokes and gastric ulcers. It also paved the way to the development of the morning-after pill and inhibitor compounds that help relieve the pain caused by menstuation, gallstones or kidney stones. 2004-08-15T00:00:00+0000Miramontes was a Mexican chemist. He is best known for having helped synthesise noresthindrone, one of the first compounds used as an oral contraceptive. This he did in 1951 when he was 26 years old. He did the worlk while based at Syntex, a small Mexican company that first made its name in the production of steroids. 2004-09-13T00:00:00+0000Wilkins was a New Zealand biophysicist whose development of x-ray diffraction techniques helped determine the structure of DNA. He obtained the first x-ray patterns on DNA in 1950. This work led to his winning the Nobel Prize in 1962. Following his work on DNA, Wilkins directed his attention to studying the structure of various forms of RNA and a wide group of genetic problems, like ageing. In his younger years, Wilkins was recruited to work on the Manhattan atomic bomb project during the war. Wilkins became profoundly disillusioned with nuclear weapons after the bombing of Japan and was the president of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science from 1969 to 1991. 2004-10-05T00:00:00+0000Murray was the founder of Sera-Lab, the first biotechnology company to commercialise monoclonal antibodies. His entrepreneurial efforts paved the way to the wide-scale adoption of monoclonal antibodies in research and their clinical application. 2004-10-11T00:00:00+0000Vane was a pharmacologist who shared the 1982 Nobel Prize in Medicine for helping to determine how aspirin produces pain-relief and reduces inflammation. He was a central figure in the discovery of prostaglandins in the mid 1970s. These are hormone-like substances that control several important functions in body and help the body when it comes under attack. Vane's work laid the foundation for new treatments for heart and blood vessel disease and the introduction of ACE inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly used for the treatment of hypertension and congestive heart failure. 2004-11-19T00:00:00+0000Lloyd, A, Plaisier, C L, Carroll, D, Drews, G N, 'Targeted mutagenesis using zinc-finger nucleases in Arabidopsis', PNAS USA 102 (2005), 2232–37. 2004-12-01T00:00:00+0000Paintal was an Indian scientist who pioneered single-fibre dissection and electrophysiological techniques for investigating and identifying impulses from different sensory receptors in the body. 2004-12-21T00:00:00+0000US FDA approved Roche AmpliChip Cytochrome P450 Genotyping Test. The first DNA microarray system approved for clinical applications, AmpliChip is designed to match patients with their most effective drug and determine appropriate drug doses. 2004-12-23T00:00:00+0000Pantridge was an Irish cardiologist who invented the portable defibrillator which greatly improved survival from heart attacks.2004-12-26T00:00:00+0000Axelrod was a pharmacologist and biochemist who shared the 1970 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the important role of neurotransmitters in the regulation of the nervous system. His work laid the foundation for the development of drugs for pain relief and a new class of antidepressants. Axelrod also helped demonstrate how the pineal gland is regulated during the sleep-awake cycle.2004-12-29T00:00:00+0000James Till and Ernest McCulloch awarded the Lasker Prize for experiments that first established a technique - the spleen colony assay - for enumerating the blood stem cell and studying its regenerative effects. Setting the stage for the contemporary development of stem cell biology. 2005-01-01T00:00:00+00002005-01-01T00:00:00+0000The Pattison report sets out plans and investment for the emerging paradigm of regenerative medicine where both embryonic and adult somatic stem cells will be important players. 2005-01-01T00:00:00+0000The finding was made by the husband and wife team May-Britt Moser and Edvard I Moser together with John O'Keefe after conducting experiments with rats. They found that when a rat developed nerve cells that form a co-ordinate system for navigation when they passed certain points on a hexagonal grid. The teams work laid the foundation for new understandings about the cognitive processes and spacial deficits associated with neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. 2005-01-01T00:00:00+0000Z Feng et al, 'The coordinate regulation of the p53 and mTOR pathways in cells', PNAS, 102 (2005), 8204–9; RG Jones, et al, 'AMP-activated protein kinase induces a p53-dependent metabolic checkpoint', Molecular Cell, 18 (2005), 283–93.2005-01-01T00:00:00+0000They wanted to find out if it is a mechanism bacteria use to protect themselves from viral infection.2005-01-01T00:00:00+0000Study conducted by team led by Shelley Berger published in Molecular Cell.2005-02-17T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
21 Jul 2004Edward B Lewis diedLewisCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Embryology
28 Jul 2004Francis H C Crick diedCrickLaboratory of Molecular BiologyDNA, Genetics
12 Aug 2004Godfrey N Hounsfield diedHounsfieldCentral Research LaboratoriesDiagnostic imaging
15 Aug 2004Sune K Bergstrom diedBergstromKarolinska InstituteBiochemistry
13 Sep 2004Luis Ernesto Miramontes diedMiramontesSyntexReproduction
5 Oct 2004Maurice H F Wilkins diedWilkinsKing's College LondonDNA, Genetics
11 Oct 2004David Murray died in La Garde-Freinet, FranceMurraySera-LabMonoclonal antibodies
19 Nov 2004John R Vane diedVaneUniversity of LondonPharmacology
Dec 2004First plant genome modified with Zinc finger method. Illustrates tool can be used to make targeted modifications in experimental organisms for gene functional studies and creating models of human genetic diseases.Lloyd, Plaisier, Carroll, DrewsUniversity of UtahGene editing, Zinc fingers
Dec 2004Autar Singh Paintal died   
Dec 2004First DNA microarray diagnostic device approved  DNA Sequencing, Genomics, Mircoarray chip
26 Dec 2004James Francis -'Frank' Pantridge died   
29 Dec 2004Julius Axelrod diedAxelrodNational Institutes of HealthNeuroscience
2005Lasker Prize awarded to James Till and Ernest McCullochTill, McCulloch Stem cells
2005First evidence for human bone cancer stem cells   Stem cells
2005UK Pattison Report emphasizes stem cells as likely potential therapies for the future  Stem cells
2005Discovery of nerve cell that allows the brain to determine spatial position May-Britt Moser, Edvard Moser, O'KeefeNorwegian University of Science and Technology Neuroscience
2005p53 shown to regulate metabolismFeng, Zhang, Levine, Jin, Jones, Plas, Kubek, Buzzai, Mu, Xu, Birnbaum, ThompsonCancer Institute of New Jersey, University of Pennsylvaniap53
2005Jennifer Doudna and Jillian Banfield started investigating CRISPR Doudna, BanfieldUniversity of California BerkeleyCRISPR-Cas9
Feb 2005Enzyme Ubp10 demonstrated to protect the genome from potential destabilising molecular eventsBerger, EmreWistar InstituteDNA, Genetics

21 Jul 2004

Edward B Lewis died

28 Jul 2004

Francis H C Crick died

12 Aug 2004

Godfrey N Hounsfield died

15 Aug 2004

Sune K Bergstrom died

13 Sep 2004

Luis Ernesto Miramontes died

5 Oct 2004

Maurice H F Wilkins died

11 Oct 2004

David Murray died in La Garde-Freinet, France

19 Nov 2004

John R Vane died

Dec 2004

First plant genome modified with Zinc finger method. Illustrates tool can be used to make targeted modifications in experimental organisms for gene functional studies and creating models of human genetic diseases.

Dec 2004

Autar Singh Paintal died

Dec 2004

First DNA microarray diagnostic device approved

26 Dec 2004

James Francis -'Frank' Pantridge died

29 Dec 2004

Julius Axelrod died


Lasker Prize awarded to James Till and Ernest McCulloch


First evidence for human bone cancer stem cells


UK Pattison Report emphasizes stem cells as likely potential therapies for the future


Discovery of nerve cell that allows the brain to determine spatial position


p53 shown to regulate metabolism


Jennifer Doudna and Jillian Banfield started investigating CRISPR

Feb 2005

Enzyme Ubp10 demonstrated to protect the genome from potential destabilising molecular events