Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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An American biochemist, Cohn developed a fractionation technique to separate blood into its components, paving the way to safer blood transfusion. 1953-10-01T00:00:00+0000A pioneer of antibody engineering, Neuberger developed some of the first techniques for the generation of chimeric and humanised antibodies. He also helped create the first transgenic mice for the production of human monoclonal antibodies. His work paved the way for the generation of safer and more effective monoclonal antibody drugs. 1953-11-02T00:00:00+0000Milstein investigates the enzyme dehydrogenase for his doctorate under the supervision of Andres Stoppani in the Department of Medicine, University of Buenos Aires1954-01-01T00:00:00+0000The first polio vaccine, developed by Jonas Salk, was tested on children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Nearly 2 million children in 44 states were tested. The trial showed the vaccine to be effective. The vaccine radically reduced the number of polio victims around the world.1954-02-23T00:00:00+0000Herrick was an American physician and cardiologist who reported the first case of sickle-shaped red blood cells in 1910. These he found in the blood of a medical student from Grenada suffering from anaemia. Clinicians subsequently found that the condition, called sickle-cell anaemia, was inherited and was most common in black patients. Sickle-cell anemia was the first disease found to have a genetic cause. Herrick later also observed the first clinical features of coronary thrombosis. 1954-03-07T00:00:00+0000Performed on identical twins by Joseph E Murray together with J Hartwell Harrison and other colleagues. 1954-12-01T00:00:00+0000Niels Jerne, a Danish immunologist, David Talmage, and Ameican immunologist, and Macfarlane Burnet, an Austrialian immunologist, independently develop the clonal selection theory. This proposes that the cell is repsonsible for making antibodies and that a small number of antibodies can distinguish between a larger number of antigen determinants. 1955-01-01T00:00:00+0000Sanger's insulin results establish for the first time that proteins are chemical entities with a defined sequence. The technique Sanger develops for sequencing insulin later becomes known as the degradation or DNP method. It provides the basis for his later development of sequencing tecdhniques for nucleic acids, including RNA and DNA.1955-01-01T00:00:00+0000Avery was a Canadian-American physician who helped discover that the genetic information in genes and chromosomes is made up of DNA.1955-02-02T00:00:00+0000Fleming was a Scottish biologist and microbiologist. He first made his mark through his discovery of lysosyme in 1923. This is an enzyme produced in the tears, saliva, mucus and human milk which is an important part of the immune system. Today he is best known for having found penicillin, a mould subsequently developed as the first antibiotic drug to treat bacterial diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 for this discovery.1955-03-11T00:00:00+0000An American chemist, Sumner showed that enzymes are proteins and can be crystalised.1955-08-12T00:00:00+0000Moore was the first to isolate male sex hormones andresterone and testosterone1955-10-16T00:00:00+0000The enzyme was discovered in Escherichia Coli. Its isolation paved the way to understanding how DNA is replicated, repaired and transcribed and the development of recombinant DNA. A collective group of scientists made the discovery: Arthur Kornberg, Maurice Bessman, Ernie Simms, I R Lehman.1955-12-01T00:00:00+0000Arthur Kornberg, American biochemist, discovers DNA polymerase, an enzyme that replicates DNA 1956-01-01T00:00:00+0000The experiments involve bone marrow transplants from mice where the donor marrow cells are marked with a specific chromosome marker, T6. The presence of the T6 marker in all blood cells of surviving recipient mice indicates their blood system was regenerated by a cell from the donor. This empirical evidence lends support to the concept of the blood stem cell.1956-01-01T00:00:00+0000Lays the basis for improving the treatment of leukaemia in humans.1956-01-01T00:00:00+0000In 1998 MacKinnon made a major breakthrough in establishing the 3-D structure of a potassium ion channel - a protein linked to transmitting electrical signals down the nerve and muscle cells. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003 on the back of this discovery. 1956-02-19T00:00:00+0000Building on the work of her parents, Marie and Pierre Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie managed to produce radioactive nitrogen from boron, radioactive isotopes of phosphorus from aluminium, and silicon from magnesium. The facilitated the application of radioactive materials for use in medicine. In 1935 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for her work on radioactive isotopes which today form the basis of much biomedical research and cancer treatment today. 1956-03-17T00:00:00+00001957-01-01T00:00:00+0000Milstein's first publication is C. Milstein, and A.O.M. Stoppani, 'Sensibilidad de aldehido deshidrogenasas para reactivos de tioles', An. Asoc. Quimica Argentina, 45 (1957), 33-51.1957-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1 Oct 1953Edwin J Cohn diedCohn Biochemistry
2 Nov 1953Michael Neuberger was born in London, United KingdomNeubergerLondon 
1954 - 1958Cesar Milstein pursues his first doctorate in biochemistryMilstein, StoppaniUniversity of Buenos Aires 
23 Feb 1954Salk polio vaccine trial begunSalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccine
7 Mar 1954James Bryan Herrick diedHerrick Rush Medical CollegeGenetics
Dec 1954First successful human kidney transplantBrigham Hospital, Harvard UniversityTranplantation
1955 - 1959Clonal selection theoryJerne, Talmage, BurnetDanish National Serum Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall InstituteAntibodies
1955Sanger completes the full sequence of amino acids in insulinSangerCambridge UniversityDNA Sequencing
2 Feb 1955Oswald Theodore Avery diedAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA, Genetics
11 Mar 1955Alexander Fleming diedFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents
12 Aug 1955James B Sumner diedSumnerCornell UniversityBiochemistry
16 Oct 1955Carl Richard Moore diedMooreUniversity of ChicagoBiochemistry, Endocrinology
Dec 1955First discovery of the enzyme DNA polymeraseKornberg, Bessman, Simms, LehmanWashington University in St. LouisDNA, recombinant DNA
1956DNA polymerase discovered to replicate DNAKornberg Washington University in St. LouisDNA
1956Experiments with mice confirm radiation recovery factor is a distinctive cellLoutit, Ford, Barnes, HamertonMRC RRUStem cells
1956Mice with leukaemia treated successfully with lethal radiation followed by bone marrow transplantLoutit, Barnes MRC RRUStem cells
19 Feb 1956Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USAMackinnonRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry, X ray crystallography
17 Mar 1956Irène Joliot-Curie diedCurie Radioisotopes
1957The Associacion Quimica Argentina awards Milstein a prize for the best doctoral thesis in chemistry that yearMilsteinUniversity of Buenos Aires 
1957 - 1959Cesar Milstein publishes papers from his doctorate with his supervisor Andres StoppaniMilsteinUniversity of Buenos Aires 

1 Oct 1953

Edwin J Cohn died

2 Nov 1953

Michael Neuberger was born in London, United Kingdom

1954 - 1958

Cesar Milstein pursues his first doctorate in biochemistry

23 Feb 1954

Salk polio vaccine trial begun

7 Mar 1954

James Bryan Herrick died

Dec 1954

First successful human kidney transplant

1955 - 1959

Clonal selection theory


Sanger completes the full sequence of amino acids in insulin

2 Feb 1955

Oswald Theodore Avery died

11 Mar 1955

Alexander Fleming died

12 Aug 1955

James B Sumner died

16 Oct 1955

Carl Richard Moore died

Dec 1955

First discovery of the enzyme DNA polymerase


DNA polymerase discovered to replicate DNA


Experiments with mice confirm radiation recovery factor is a distinctive cell


Mice with leukaemia treated successfully with lethal radiation followed by bone marrow transplant

19 Feb 1956

Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USA

17 Mar 1956

Irène Joliot-Curie died


The Associacion Quimica Argentina awards Milstein a prize for the best doctoral thesis in chemistry that year

1957 - 1959

Cesar Milstein publishes papers from his doctorate with his supervisor Andres Stoppani