Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Weller was a physician and virologist whose development of tissue-culture methods, with John P. Enders and Frederick C. Robbins, in October 1949 opened up the means to study viral diseases. Their work paved the way to the development of the polio vaccine. The virus was grown in cultures of human foreskin and embryonic tissues. Weller shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954 for the 'discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue.'1915-06-15T00:00:00+0000Ehrlich played a significant role in the development of the first serum therapy to combat diphtheria in the 1890s and devised methods for standardising therapeutic serums. In addition he invented staining techniques for distinguishing different types of blood cells which laid the foundation for diagnosing blood disorders. In 1900 he popularised the 'magic bullet' concept which promoted the idea of developing a drug capable of killing specific disease-causing microbes, like bacteria, without harming the body itself. Nine years later he succeeded in creating Salvasan, the first drug created to target a specific pathogen and the first effective medical treatment for syphilis. Ehrlich also coined the term 'antibody' and transformed understandings of how the immune system worked. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on the back of this work. Despite his groundbreaking research, Ehrlich struggled to get a permanent position because of his Jewish background.1915-08-20T00:00:00+0000Stern was the first to describe how a healthy cell changes into a cancerous cell. Her work helped transform cervical cancer into an easily diagnosed and treatable condition. She also demonstrated the links between the herpes simplex virus and cervical cancer and between cervical cancer and the oral contraceptive pill.1915-09-19T00:00:00+0000Sheehan was an American organic chemist. He is best known for having developed the first synthetic penicillin. It took him 9 years to develop the method. His breakthrough laid the foundation for the development of customised forms of antibiotics to treat specific bacteria. He is also associated with the development of ampicillin, a semi-synthetic penicillin that can be taken orally instead of by injection. 1915-09-23T00:00:00+0000Sutherland was a American pharmacologist and biochemist. He determined how hormones work through the isolation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate. This he demonstrated acts as a second messenger in cells and has an important role in the actions of hormones at the cellular level. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971 on the back of this work. 1915-11-19T00:00:00+0000The trials were carried out by James B Murphy and colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute. 1916-01-01T00:00:00+0000Bergstrom shared the 1982 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances.'1916-01-10T00:00:00+0000Anfinsen was a biochemist who spent his career studying the relationships between structure and function in proteins. He is best known for his studies of ribonuclease, a type of nuclease that catalyses the degradation of RNA into smaller components. In 1972 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work 'on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation.' 1916-03-26T00:00:00+0000Furchgott was a biochemist. He is best known for having shown the signalling function of nitric oxide in the cardiovascular system. In 1966 he noticed a substance in cells on the interior surface of blood vessels were capable of relaxing the blood vessels. He called the substance endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF). By 1986 he had worked out the function and mechanism of action of EDRF and found out that it was a nitric oxide. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998 on the back of this work, Furchgott's discoveries helped explained a wide variety of neuronal, cardiovascular and other physiological processes important to human health and disease.1916-06-04T00:00:00+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. 1916-06-08T00:00:00+0000Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his discovery of phagocytes (macrophages), a type of immune cell that projects the body by ingesting harmful foreign substances like bacteria and dead or dying cells. He made the discovery in 1882 while studying an unusual group of cells that clustered around thorns he pinned into starfish larvae. Based on this work he hypothesised that inflammation resulted from the process by which white blood cells attacked and destroyed bacteria. The scientific community took time to accept this idea.1916-07-15T00:00:00+0000Robbins co-pioneered the growth of the poliomyelitis virus in a test tube from infected tissue which paved the way to the development of vaccines against the disease. 1916-08-25T00:00:00+0000Dausset was an immunologist. In 1952 he noticed that white blood cells taken from patients who had received blood transfusions agglutinated when mixed with antibodies. He realised this was due to the genetic differences between donors and recipients. Eight years later he discovered the first leukocyte antigen, an important marker found on the surface of cells that helps the immune system recognise foreign substances. He subsequently worked out the complex relationship between tissue compatibility and graft survival. In 1980 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on tissue typing which is essential to the success of transplants. 1916-10-19T00:00:00+0000A pioneer in the development of the oral polio and modern rabies vaccines, Koprowski was the first scientist, together with colleagues, to be granted a patent for monoclonal antibodies. 1916-12-05T00:00:00+0000Wilkins shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Medicine for work in determining structure of DNA1916-12-15T00:00:00+0000Karl Landsteiner, Austrian-born American biologist and physician, shows the body capable of producing antibodies against synthetic antigens never encountered before.1917-01-01T00:00:00+0000Kendrew was a biochemist and crystallogapher. He is best known for elucidating the structure of myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen in muscle cells, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in 1962. In 1963 he helped found the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and later was its director. For many years he was also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Biology, 1917-03-24T00:00:00+0000von Behring was a German military physician. He is best known for contributions to the studies of immunity. This was aided by his discovery of a diphtheria toxin, in 1890, which laid the basis for the development of the first drug against diphtheria. The drug was the first serum therapy developed. He later went on to develop a serum therapy against tetanus. Von Behring shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1901 for the the development of his serum therapies1917-03-31T00:00:00+0000Woodward as an organic chemist who won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for opening up the field of artificial synthesis. He first made his mark in the early 1940s by demonstrating the application of ultraviolet spectroscopy for elucidating the structure of natural products. His method helped reduce the long and extremely tedious steps previously used to decipher the chemical structures of such products. In 1944 he and his postdoctoral researcher, William von Eggers Doering reported the successful synthesis of quinine, an organic compound used for the treatment for malaria. He went on to synthesis other organic compounds like cholesterol, cortisone, strychnine, and chlorophyll. 1917-04-10T00:00:00+0000Fenn shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the development of mass spectrometric (MS) methods to analyse proteins and other large biological molecules. In the late 1980s he developed a technique, known as electrospray ionisation, which involves the injection of a liquid solution of the sample to be analysed into an electric field. This disperses the sample into a spray of charged droplets. Once the droplets shrink, through evaporation on the electric field, it is possible to separate individual molecules the droplets thereby providing free ions for analysis by MS. Fenn's technique is highly versatile and and provides a quick means to get accurate information about the mass of a large molecule, even when it is in a mixture with other molecules. It is used in the development of pharmaceuticals and to analyse harmful substances in food. 1917-06-15T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
15 Jun 1915Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USAWellerChildren's Medical Center Boston, Harvard UniversityVirology
20 Aug 1915Paul Ehrlich diedEhrlichGoettingen UniversityAntibodies, Immunology, Bacteriology
19 Sep 1915Elizabeth Stern Shankman born in Cobalt, Ontario, CanadaSternUniversity of California at Los AngelesOncology
23 Sep 1915John C Sheehan was born in Battle Creek, MI, USASheehanMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyAntibacterial agents
19 Nov 1915Earl W Sutherland was born in Burlingame, KS, USASutherlandVanderbilt UniversityCell, Endocrinology
1916 - 1922Disappointing results reported from clinical trials treating breast cancer patients with low doses of X-ray radiation following tumour removal, discrediting the theory that stimulation of lymphocytes could help cure cancer. MurphyRockefeller InstituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
10 Jan 1916Sune K Bergstrom was born in Stockholm, SwedenBergstromKarolinska InstituteBiochemistry
26 Mar 1916Christian B Anfinsen was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, USA AnfinsenNational Institutes of HealthRNA
4 Jun 1916Robert F Furchgott was born in Charleston SC, USAFurchgottState University of New YorkPharmacology, Cardiovascular
8 Jun 1916Francis H C Crick was born in Northampton, United KingdomCrickLaboratory of Molecular BiologyDNA, Genetics
15 Jul 1916Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov diedMechnikovPasteur InstituteImmunology
25 Aug 1916Frederick Chapman Robbins was born in Auburn AL, USARobbinsWestern Reserve UniversityVirology, Vaccine
19 Oct 1916Jean Dausset was born in Toulouse, FranceDaussetUniversity of ParisImmunology, Transplantation
5 Dec 1916Hilary Koprowski was born in Warsaw, PolandKoprowskiWarsaw, Poland 
15 Dec 1916Maurice H F Wilkins was born in Pongaroa, New ZealandWilkinsKing's College LondonDNA, Genetics
1917Antibodies shown to form against synthetic antigens (foreign substances)LandsteinerWilhelminenspitalAntibodies
24 Mar 1917John C Kendrew was born in Oxford, United KingdomKendrewLaboratory of Molecular BiologyBiochemistry
31 Mar 1917Emil Adolf von Behring diedvon Behring Antibodies
10 Apr 1917Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston MA, USAWoodwardHarvard UniversityPharmacology
15 Jun 1917John B Fenn was born in New York, USAFennVirginia Commonwealth University, Yale UniversityAnalytical chemistry

15 Jun 1915

Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USA

20 Aug 1915

Paul Ehrlich died

19 Sep 1915

Elizabeth Stern Shankman born in Cobalt, Ontario, Canada

23 Sep 1915

John C Sheehan was born in Battle Creek, MI, USA

19 Nov 1915

Earl W Sutherland was born in Burlingame, KS, USA

1916 - 1922

Disappointing results reported from clinical trials treating breast cancer patients with low doses of X-ray radiation following tumour removal, discrediting the theory that stimulation of lymphocytes could help cure cancer.

10 Jan 1916

Sune K Bergstrom was born in Stockholm, Sweden

26 Mar 1916

Christian B Anfinsen was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, USA

4 Jun 1916

Robert F Furchgott was born in Charleston SC, USA

8 Jun 1916

Francis H C Crick was born in Northampton, United Kingdom

15 Jul 1916

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov died

25 Aug 1916

Frederick Chapman Robbins was born in Auburn AL, USA

19 Oct 1916

Jean Dausset was born in Toulouse, France

5 Dec 1916

Hilary Koprowski was born in Warsaw, Poland

15 Dec 1916

Maurice H F Wilkins was born in Pongaroa, New Zealand

1917

Antibodies shown to form against synthetic antigens (foreign substances)

24 Mar 1917

John C Kendrew was born in Oxford, United Kingdom

31 Mar 1917

Emil Adolf von Behring died

10 Apr 1917

Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston MA, USA

15 Jun 1917

John B Fenn was born in New York, USA