Timeline of key events in biotechnology

Mouseover the event title for a more detailed description of the event (if available). To search for particular terms in the description of the event enter the term in the box below 'Event' on the table and press 'enter'. Alternatively use the dropdown lists to filter by Person, Place or Science. Click here to clear the filter.

Hopkins shared the 1929 Nobel Prize for discovering vitamins. 1947-05-16T00:00:00+0000Wieschaus shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Medicine for research into genetic controls during early embryonic development.1947-06-08T00:00:00+0000Barré-Sinoussi shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 for the discovery of HIV.1947-07-30T00:00:00+0000Together with Herbert Boyer, Swanson helped found Genentech, the first biotechnology company dedicated to commercialising recombinant DNA. From 1976 to 1990 Swanson was Chief Executive and Director of the company and played an instrumental role in leading it to become the first major biotechnology company to show a profit and go public. 1947-11-29T00:00:00+0000Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA.1947-12-08T00:00:00+0000Astrid Fagraeus, a Swedish immunologist, publishes her doctoral thesis demonstrating plasma B cells produce antibodies. 1948-01-01T00:00:00+0000R.D. Hotchkiss, 'The quantative separation of purines, pyrimidines, and nucleosides by paper chromatography', J Biol Chem, 175/1 (1948), 315-32. 1948-03-10T00:00:00+0000Michel shared the 1988 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for determining the structure of proteins essential for photosynthesis.1948-07-18T00:00:00+0000Roger Vendrely, Colette Vendrely and Andre Boivin, French scientists, report that the DNA content of cells is directly related to the chromosomes they contain. Importantly they discover half as much DNA in the nuclei of sex cells as they find in body cells. This provides further evidence for the fact that DNA is genetic material. 1949-01-01T00:00:00+0000Erwin Chargaff, Austro-Hungarian-born American biochemist, shows that the DNA base composition varies between species and that within a species the four DNA bases are always present in fixed ratios: the same number of A’s as T’s and the same number of C’s as G’s. This boosts the belief that DNA is genetic material and provides the foundation for the discovery of the double helix structure. 1949-01-01T00:00:00+0000Macfarlane Burnet and Frank Fenner develop the concept that organisms can discriminate between self and non-self. Defined as immune tolerance this helped explain how the body fails to mount an attack against its own antigens and against certain external antigens. This theory inspired greater investigation into antibodies and unravelling the mechanism underlying autoimmunity, laying the foundation for organ transplants. 1949-01-01T00:00:00+0000The objective of these experiments is to understand how the bone marrow protects against radiation damage.1949-01-01T00:00:00+0000Nurse shared the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle.'1949-01-25T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a French Canadian microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria.1949-02-22T00:00:00+0000The American scientists Linus Pauling, Harvey Itano, Seymour Singer and Ibert Wells published an article in Science showing sickle cell anaemia to be a molecular disease caused by a mutation. Sickle cell anaemia was the first disease to be understood at a molecular level. 1949-09-01T00:00:00+0000Jeffreys, a British geneticist, pioneered the process for DNA fingerprinting, a technique that helps identify individuals based on their genetic makeup. 1950-01-09T00:00:00+0000In 1978 Birndorf, along with Ivor Royston, helped found Hybritech, America's first biotechnology company dedicated to monoclonal antibodies. Birndorf went on to found other companies including: Gen-Probe, IDEC Pharmaceuticals (which merged with Biogen to form Biogen-Idec), Ligand, Gensia (Sicor), Neurocrine Biosciences, FastTraQ and Nanogen. 1950-02-21T00:00:00+0000Schoemaker was co-founder and first Chief Executive Officer of Centocor, an American biotechnology company that pioneered the commercialisation of monoclonal antibody diagnostics and therapeutics.1950-03-23T00:00:00+0000Drew was an African-American physician and surgeon who helped develop large-scale blood banks for blood transfusion which helped save thousands of lives of Allied soldiers in World War II. 1950-04-01T00:00:00+0000Henry Kunkel, an American immunologist, while studying the blood of patients with myeloma (a type of cancer that develops from plasma cells in the bone marrow) unexpectedly discovers myeloma proteins to resemble normal antibodies.1951-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
16 May 1947Frederick Gowland Hopkins diedHopkinsCambridge UniversityBiochemistry
8 Jun 1947Eric F Wieschaus was born in South Bend, Indiana, USAWieschausSouth Bend, IndianaGenetics
30 Jul 1947Francoise Barré-Sinoussi born in Paris, FranceBarre-SinoussiParis, FranceVirology
29 Nov 1947Robert Swanson was born in Florida, USASwansonFlorida 
8 Dec 1947Thomas R Cech was born in Chicago IL, USACechUniversity of ColoradoRNA
1948Antibody production found in plasma B cellsFagraeusKarolinska InstitutetAntibodies
Mar 1948Hotchkiss discovered the first naturally modifed DNA nucleotide, cytosine, in a chromatography of calf thymus DNAHotchkissRockefeller InstituteEpigenetics
18 Jul 1948Hartmut Michel born in Ludwigsburg, West GermanyMichel Biochemistry
1949DNA content of a cells linked to a cell's number of chromosomesVendrely, BoivinPasteur Institute, Strasbourg School of MedicineDNA
1949 - 1950DNA four base ratio shown to be always consistentCargraffColumbia UniversityDNA
1949Immune tolerance concept developedBurnet, FennerWalter and Eliza Hall InstituteAntibodies
1949First experiments transplanting spleen from non-radiated mice into radiated miceJacobson, Marks, GastonUniversity of ChicagoStem cells
25 Jan 1949Paul M Nurse was born in Norwich, United KingdomNurseImperial Cancer Research FundCell
22 Feb 1949Felix d'Herelle diedd'HerellePasteur InstituteBacteriology, Virology
Sep 1949Sickle cell shown to be caused by genetic mutationPaulingCalifornia Institute of TechnologyDNA
9 Jan 1950Alec Jeffreys was born in Oxford, United KingdomJeffreysUniversity of LeicesterGenetics
21 Feb 1950Howard Birndorf was born in Detroit, Michigan, USABirndorfDetroit, Michigan 
23 Mar 1950Hubert Schoemaker was born in Deventer, The NetherlandsSchoemakerDeventer, The Netherlands 
1 Apr 1950Charles Richard Drew diedDrew  
1951Myeloma cells found to resemble normal antibodiesKunkelRockefeller UniversityAntibodies

16 May 1947

Frederick Gowland Hopkins died

8 Jun 1947

Eric F Wieschaus was born in South Bend, Indiana, USA

30 Jul 1947

Francoise Barré-Sinoussi born in Paris, France

29 Nov 1947

Robert Swanson was born in Florida, USA

8 Dec 1947

Thomas R Cech was born in Chicago IL, USA

1948

Antibody production found in plasma B cells

Mar 1948

Hotchkiss discovered the first naturally modifed DNA nucleotide, cytosine, in a chromatography of calf thymus DNA

18 Jul 1948

Hartmut Michel born in Ludwigsburg, West Germany

1949

DNA content of a cells linked to a cell's number of chromosomes

1949 - 1950

DNA four base ratio shown to be always consistent

1949

Immune tolerance concept developed

1949

First experiments transplanting spleen from non-radiated mice into radiated mice

25 Jan 1949

Paul M Nurse was born in Norwich, United Kingdom

22 Feb 1949

Felix d'Herelle died

Sep 1949

Sickle cell shown to be caused by genetic mutation

9 Jan 1950

Alec Jeffreys was born in Oxford, United Kingdom

21 Feb 1950

Howard Birndorf was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA

23 Mar 1950

Hubert Schoemaker was born in Deventer, The Netherlands

1 Apr 1950

Charles Richard Drew died

1951

Myeloma cells found to resemble normal antibodies