The role of women in biotechnology

Often hidden from view, women have played a major role in the development of biotechnology and medicine. Indeed, women have been at the cutting edge of biotechnology, including Rosalind Franklin who played a fundamental role in deciphering the structure of DNA; Esther Lederberg who discovered the lambda phage which is now a major tool for studying gene regulation and genetic recombination; Margaret Dayhoff who developed the field of bioinformatics; Janet Mertz who created the first piece of recombinant DNA; and Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier who helped pioneer CRISPR, a revolutionary technique for genome editing.

Here we provide a number of profiles of women who have been key pioneers in biotechnology. These profiles have been compiled as part of an ongoing project to highlight the many contributions women have made to biotechnology. This is a work in progress and we welcome suggestions for other women to be included.

Some of the leading women in biotechnology

Don't hesitate to contact us if you think of other women who have played an important role in the development of biotechnology and who are not here.

Brigitte Askonas (1923 - 2013)

Born: Vienna, Austria. Askonas co-developed one of the first systems for the cloning of antibody-forming B cells in vivo, some of the earliest monoclonal antibodies. She was also one of the first scientists to isolate and clone virus specific T lymphocytes, laying the foundation for defining different influenza sub-sets and improving vaccines. (Photo credit: Anne-Katrin Purkiss, Wellcome Images B0007461).

Margaret Dayhoff (1925 - 1983)

Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Dayhoff is known as the founder of bioinformatics. This she did by pioneering the application of mathematics and computational techniques to the sequencing of proteins and nucleic acids and establishing the first publicly available database for research in the area. (Photo credit: Ruth E Dayhoff, National Library of Medicine).

Jennifer Doudna (1964)

Born: Washington DC, United States. Doudna first made her name uncovering the basic structure and function of the first ribozyme, a type of catalytic ribonucleic acid (RNA) that helps catalyse chemical reactions. This work helped lay the foundation for her later helping to pioneer CRISPR-Cas 9, a tool that has provided the means to edit genes on an unprecedented scale and at minimal cost. In addition to her scientific contributions to CRISPR, Doudna is known for spearheading the public debate to consider the ethical implications of using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human embryos.

Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958)

Born: London, United Kingdom. Rosalind Franklin was an x-ray crystallographer whose work helped uncover the double-helix structure of DNA. (Photo credit: Vittorio Luzzati).

Beverly Griffin (1930 - 2016)

Born: Delhi, Louisiana. Griffin earned two doctorates in chemistry in an era when it was rare for women to pursue a scientific career. She is best known for her pioneering work on the molecular biology of two viruses that cause cancer - the polyomavirus and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). From the 1980s she was devoted to understanding how in one setting EBV could cause glandular fever, a largely harmless disease, and yet in another Burkitt's Lymphoma, a major killer of children in Central Africa. She also spearheaded efforts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of the cancer and was a tireless campaigner for raising awareness of the plight of children with the disease in Africa. (Photo credit: Tomas Lindahl).

Esther Lederberg (1922 - 2006)

Born: Bronx, New York, United States. Esther Lederberg was a major pioneer of bacterial genetics. She discovered the lambda phage, a bacterial virus which is widely used as a tool to study gene regulation and genetic recombination. She also invented the replica plating technique, which is used to isolate and analyse bacterial mutants and track antibiotic resistance. (Photo credit: The Esther Lederberg Memorial Trust).

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909 - 2012)

Born: Turin, Italy. An Italian scientist, Rita Levi-Montalcini helped discover the chemical tools the body uses to direct cell growth and build nerves. This knowledge underpins current investigation into how these processes go wrong in diseases like dementia and cancer. (Photo credit: Bernard Becker Medical Library).

Janet Mertz (1949)

Born: The Bronx, New York, USA. Mertz was pivotal to the discovery of the first enzyme for easily joining together DNA from different species and designing the protocol that underpinned the development of the first recombinant DNA cloned in bacteria. Her work not only helped lay the foundation for the development of genetic engineering, but also spurred on the establishment of the first safety guidelines for laboratories involved in genetic manipulation. She has also made key contributions to our understanding about how the human tumour viruses SV40, hepatitis B virus, and Epstein-Barr virus regulate expression of their genes and identified roles oestrogen-related receptors play in breast cancer and responses to therapies. (Photo credit: Janet Mertz).

Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (1942)

Born: Magdeburg, Germany. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard won the Nobel Prize in 1995, the sixth woman to do so. She was awarded the Prize on the basis of her groundbreaking research that showed how genes regulate the early development of fruit fly embryos. Her discoveries helped create the new discipline of developmental genetics and laid the foundation for understanding genetic defects in human embryos.

Rosemary Versteegen (1948)

Born: Glasgow, Scotland. Rosemary J Versteegen worked for over twenty years with Life Technologies Inc, which in the 1990s was one of largest suppliers of culture cell products and other scientific reagents to the biotechnology industry. She was pivotal to the company’s success in winning FDA approval for the first diagnostic test using synthetic nucleic acid probes for detecting infection with the human papillomavirus, one of the most common causes of cervical cancer. In addition, Versteegen is one of the co-founders and the Chief Executive Officer of the International Serum Industry Association, an organisation that works to promote standards of excellence and ethics in the animal serum and animal derived products industry.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi (1947)

Born: Paris, France. Barre-Sinoussi shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for helping to identify the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS in 1983. Over the years she has made substantial contributions to understanding the role of innate immune defences in the host in controlling HIV/AIDS and how HIV is transmitted between the mother and child. She has also studied the characteristics that allow some HIV-positive individuals gain resistance to HIV without antiretrioviral drugs. (Photo credit: Karolinska Institute, Press conference, 2008).

Elizabeth Blackburn (1948)

Born: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Blackburn is a molecular biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009. She is best known for having discovered a particular repetative sequence of DNA on the telomere, a particular region found at the end of a chromosome that prevents the chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other. She also helped identify telomerase, an enzyme that helps replenish telomeres which get shorter every time a cell divides. Such shortening is associated with aging and cancer. (Photo credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation).

Gertrude Elion (1918 - 1999)

Born: New York City, United States. Elion shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her contributions to the development of a multitude of new drugs. This included drugs for herpes, leukemia, malaria, gout, immune disorders, and AIDS, and immune suppressants to overcome rejection of donated organs in transplant surgery. Her work earned 45 patents. (Photo credit: Wellcome Images).

Carol Greider (1961)

Born: San Diego, California, United States. Greider shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for helping to elucidate the structure of telomeres, a particular region found at the end of a chromosome that prevents the chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, and to identify telomerase, an enzyme that helps replenish telomeres which get shorter every time a cell divides. Such shortening is associated with aging and cancer. She also collaborated in the development of the first telomerase knockout mouse which helped demonstrate how premature aging is linked to increasingly short telomeres. (Photo credit: Keith Weller).

Ingeborg Hochmair-Desoyer (1953)

Born: Vienna, Austria. Hochmair-Desoyer is an electrical engineer who helped create the world's first micro-electric multi-channel cochlear implant. Developed in 1977 the implant enables the user to not only hear sounds but also to understand speech. Since 2000 she has co-founded a number of medical device companies working to help with hearing loss. In 2013 she was awarded the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. (Photo credit: Ingeborg J Hochmair-Desoyer).

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910 - 1994)

Born: Cairo, Egypt. Dorothy Hodgkin, was a British biochemist who developed protein crystallography and X-ray crystallography which was used to confirm the structure of penicillin, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. (Photo credit: Peter Lofts Photography, National Portrait Gallery, London Peter Lofts Photography, National Portrait Gallery, London ).

Mary-Claire King (1946)

Born: Illinois, United States. King is a human geneticist who studies the interplay between genetics and the environment on human disease. She is best known for having identified BRCA1, a single gene responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers. Her technique for identifying the BRCA1 gene is now used for studying many other diseases. She was also responsible for the development of a technique, using mitrochondial DNA and human leukocyte antigen, for genetically identifying the remains of missing people. (Photo credit: Mary-Claire King).

Barbara McClintock (1902 - 1992)

Born: Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Through her work on maize, McClintock demonstrated the ability of genes to change position on the chromosome. (Photo credit: American Philosophical Society).

Sherie Morrison

Born: United States. A key pioneer in the development of antibody engineering techniques, Morrison helped develop some of the first chimeric monoclonal antibodies. This work paved the way to the creation of safer and more effective monoclonal antibody drugs. (Photo credit: Sherie Morrison).

May-Britt Moser (1963)

Born: Fosnavag, Norway. Moser shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for helping to discover cells located in the centre of the brain that are important for determining spacial position. Her work has helped scientists gain new understanding into the cognitive processes and spacial deficits linked to neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease. (Photo credit: NBC News).

Evelyn Witkin (1921)

Born: New York City, United States. Witkin is an American geneticist who is best known for her work on DNA mutagenesis and DNA repair. She helped elucidate the first co-ordinated stress response. This she did studying the response of bacteria to UV radiation. Witkins was one of the first few women to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, in 1977 and in 2002 was awarded the National Medal of Science. (Photo credit: YouTube).

Rosalyn Yalow (1921 - 2011)

Born: New York City, United States. The second American woman to ever be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Yalow is best known for having co-developed a diagnostic technique, known as a radioimmunoassay, for measuring tiny quantities of various biological samples in blood and other bodily fluids. The test's primary detection mechanism is an antibody combined with a radioisotope. First devised for determining insulin levels in diabetes patients, the technique is now used for hundreds of other substances previously difficult to detect because they were too small. Among the substances it can quantify are hormones, vitamins, enzymes. It is also used to measure the effectiveness of dose levels of antibiotics and other drugs. (Photo credit: US Information Agency).

Tu Youyou (1930)

Born: Zhejiang, China. Tu Youyou is a Chinese chemist who discovered artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin, used to treat malaria. YouYou received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with William Campbell and Satoshi Omura. Youyou is the first Chinese Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine and the first female citizen of the People's Republic of China to receive a Nobel Prize in any category. (Photo credit: Bengt Nyman).

Women in biotechnology: timeline of key events

Curie won two Nobel Prizes, one in 1903 and another in 1911 for pioneering the study of radioactivity.1867-11-07T00:00:00+0000Alexander was a paediatrician and microbiologist. In the 1940s she developed the first effective treatment against Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), a major killer of infants. Her treatment helped reduced mortality from the disease from nearly 100 per cent to less than 25 per cent. It involved the combination of antiserum therapy with sulfa drugs. Alexander was also one of the first scientists to identify and study antibiotics resistance, which emerged out of her search for antibiotics to treat Hib. She worked out that the resistance was due to random genetic mutations in DNA that were positively selected through evolution. 1901-04-05T00:00:00+0000McClintock demonstrated in maize experiments how genes can shift to different locations by themselves and established that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off. She was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for this work.1902-06-16T00:00:00+0000Levi-Montalcini is best known for sharing the Nobel Prize in 1986 for helping to discover and isolate the nerve growth factor which helps regulate the growth, maintenance, proliferation and survival of certian neurons. Banned by Mussolini from working in academia because she was Jewish, Levi-Montalcini conducted much of her early work in a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom. She later became the director of the Research Center of Neurobiology and the Laboratory of Cellular Biology in Washington University and founded the European Brain Research Institute. 1909-04-22T00:00:00+0000Dorothy Hodgkin, was a British biochemist who developed protein crystallography and X-ray crystallography which was used to confirm the structure of penicillin, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.1910-05-10T00:00:00+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+0000Chatterjee is renowned for her breakthroughs in the development of anti-malarial and anti-epileptic drugs. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in science from an Indian university - Calcutta University.1917-09-23T00:00:00+0000Elion was a biochemist and pharmacologist renowned for developing new methods to design drugs that took advantage of the biochemical differences between normal human cells and pathogens (disease-causing agents). The aim was to create a drug capable of killing or inhibiting the reproduction of pathogens without harming healthy cells. Elion helped develop a number of drugs for a variety of diseases, including leukaemia and malaria. One of her most notable achievements was the creation of the first immunosuppressive drug for organ transplant patients. In 1988 she was joined awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 'discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.'1918-01-23T00:00:00+0000Saruhashi is renowned for being the first scientist to demonstrate the dangers of radioactive fallout in seawater that resulted from nuclear bomb testing in 1954. Her evidence was later used to prevent further nuclear testing by governments. Despite her achievement, she suffered discrimination as a woman scientist. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1957. Convinced that technical expertise was the key to women's independence she established the Society of Japanese Scientists in 1958 to promote women in science. 1920-03-22T00:00:00+0000Franklin was a biophysicist. She is best known for having taken photo 51, in 1952, which provided the first evidence of the double helix structure of DNA. She took the photo using x-ray crystallography. Data from the photo was pivotal to Crick and Watson's building of their DNA double helical structure of DNA which they won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Sadly Franklin died too early to receive the Nobel Prize for her work.1920-07-25T00:00:00+0000Blackwell was the first woman to get medical degree in US and to be registered on UK Medical Register1921-02-03T00:00:00+0000Witkin is best known for her work on DNA mutagenesis and DNA repair. She helped elucidate the first co-ordinated stress response. This she did studying the response of bacteria to UV radiation. Witkins was one of the first few women to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, in 1977. She was also awarded the National Medal of Science in 2002. 1921-03-09T00:00:00+0000 Yalow shared the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the development of radioimmunoassay diagnostic tests to measure the concentration of hormones, vitamins, viruses, enzymes, drugs and other substances. 1921-07-19T00:00:00+0000Lederberg is best known for having discovered the lambda phage, an indispensable tool for studying gene regulation and genetic recombination. She also invented the replica plating technique which is pivotal to tracking antibiotic resistance. 1922-12-18T00:00:00+0000Askonas co-developed one of the first systems for the cloning of antibody-forming B cells in vivo, some of the earliest monoclonal antibodies. She was also one of the first scientists to isolate and clone virus specific T lymphocytes, laying the foundation for defining different influenza sub-sets and improving vaccines. 1923-04-01T00:00:00+0000Dayhoff is known as the founder of bioinformatics. This she did by pioneering the application of mathematics and computational techniques to the sequencing of proteins and nucleic acids and establishing the first publicly available database for research in the area. 1925-03-11T00:00:00+0000Griffin was a leading expert on viruses that cause cancer. First woman appointed to Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital. In 1980 she completed the sequence of the poliovirus, the longest piece of eukaryotic DNA to be sequenced at that time. Devoted her life to understanding the Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of Burkitt's Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. 1930-01-23T00:00:00+0000Youyou discovered artemisinin and dihydroartemisinin, used to treat malaria for which she received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She is the first female citizen of the People's Republic of China to receive a Nobel Prize.1930-12-30T00:00:00+0000Curie won two Nobel Prizes, one in 1903 and another in 1911 for pioneering the study of radioactivity.1934-07-04T00:00:00+0000King is a human geneticist who studies the interplay between genetics and the environment on human disease. She is best known for having identified BRCA1, a single gene responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers. Her technique for identifying the BRCA1 gene is now used for studying many other diseases. She was also responsible for the development of a technique, using mitrochondial DNA and human leucocyte antigen, for genetically identifying the remains of missing people. 1946-02-27T00:00:00+0000Barré-Sinoussi shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 for the discovery of HIV.1947-07-30T00:00:00+0000Noted by Salvador Luria and his graduate student Mary Human while conducting experiments into the break-up of DNA in phage-infected bateria.1952-01-01T00:00:00+0000Known as Photo 51, this image was shown, without Franklin's permission, to James Watson, who, together with Francis Crick, used it to develop the double-helix model of DNA.1952-01-03T00:00:00+0000Hochmair-Desoyer is an electrical engineer who helped create the world's first micro-electric multi-channel cochlear implant. Developed in 1977 the implant enables the user to not only hear sounds but also to understand speech. Since 2000 she has co-founded a number of medical device companies working to help with hearing loss. In 2013 she was awarded the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. 1953-01-01T00:00:00+0000Rosalind Franklin publishes Photo 51 in a joint paper with Raymond Gosling in Nature.1953-04-01T00:00:00+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+0000Franklin was a British biophysicist who provided the first evidence of the double helix structure of DNA. She captured the structure in photo 51, an image she made of DNA using x-ray crystallography in 1952. Data from the photo was pivotal to Crick and Watson's building of their DNA double helical structure of DNA which they won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Sadly Franklin died too young, age 37, to receive the Nobel Prize for her work. 1958-04-16T00:00:00+0000Greider is best known for her discovery of telomerase, an enzyme made up of protein and RNA subunits that help elongate and protect chromosomes. The enzyme is found in fetal tissues, adult germ cells and also tumour cells. Greider made the discovery in 1984 when she was a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009 on the back of this work. 1961-04-15T00:00:00+0000Lorraine Kraus incubated bone marrow cells from a patient with sickle-cell anaemia with DNA from healthy donor. L.M. Kraus, ‘Formation of different haemoglobins in tissue culture of human bone marrow treated with human deoxyribonucleic acid’, Nature, 4807 (1961) 1055-57. 1961-12-16T00:00:00+0000Werner Arber, Swiss microbiologist and geneticist, and his doctoral student Daisy Dussoix propose bacteria produce restriction and modification enzymes to counter invading viruses. W. Arber, D. Dussoix, Journal Molecular Biology, 5 (1962), 18–36 and 37-49.1962-01-23T00:00:00+0000The book contained all protein sequences known to-date. It was the result of a collective effort led by Margaret Dayhoff to co-ordinate the ever-growing amount of information about protein sequences and their biochemical function. It provided the model for GenBank and many other molecular databases. 1965-01-01T00:00:00+0000Alexander was an American paediatrician and microbiologist. In the 1940s she developed the first effective treatment against Haemophilus influenzae (Hib), a major killer of infants. Her treatment helped reduced mortality from the disease from nearly 100 per cent to less than 25 per cent. It involved the combination of antiserum therapy with sulfa drugs. Alexander was also one of the first scientists to identify and study antibiotics resistance, which emerged out of her search for antibiotics to treat Hib. She worked out that the resistance was due to random genetic mutations in DNA that were positively selected through evolution.1968-06-24T00:00:00+0000Brigette Askonas, a Canadian biochemist, Alan Williamson, a British immunologist, and Brian Wright clone B cells in vivo using spleen cells from mice immunised with haptenated carrier antigen.1970-01-01T00:00:00+00001970-01-01T00:00:00+0000This was done in Dale Kaiser's laboratory by Douglas Berg together with Janet Mertz and David Jackson1971-01-01T00:00:00+0000Robert Pollack contacted Paul Berg to raise concerns about the potential biohazards of experiments his doctoral research plans to do involving the introduction of genes from the oncovirus SV40 in the human gut bacteria, E-Coli. Following this Berg self-imposed a moratorium on experiments in his laboratory involving the cloning of SV40 in E-Coli. 1971-06-01T00:00:00+0000The power of restriction enzymes to cut DNA was demonstrated by Kathleen Danna, a graduate student, with Daniel Nathans, her doctoral supervisor, at Johns Hopkins University. They published the technique in PNAS, 68/12 (1971), 2913-17.1971-12-01T00:00:00+00001972-01-01T00:00:00+0000Key architect of legislation was Bernice Sandler, part-time lecturer at University of Maryland who three-times was denied tenure-track positions despite being on the short-list. She failed to get the appointments based on claims she was ‘too strong for a woman’. 1972-06-23T00:00:00+0000The technique was developed by Janet Mertz and Ronald Davis at Stanford University. J. Mertz, R. Davis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 69/11, pp. 2270-74. 1972-11-01T00:00:00+0000The identity of the blood stem cell, especially that in the human, and even its existence remains the subject of debate because the cell is difficult to isolate. Those involved in the debate include the Manchester group (Dexter, Lord) and American groups (Weissmann and Morrison). Part of the problem is that techniques for studying the human blood stem cell lagged behind that of animal models. 1980-01-01T00:00:00+0000It was one of the largest tracts of eukaryotic DNA sequenced up this time. The work was published in E Soeda, JR Arrand, N Smolar, JE Walsh, BE Griffin, ‘Coding potential and regulatory signals of the polyoma virus genome’, Nature, 283 (1980) 445-53.1980-01-01T00:00:00+0000The call followed an investigation undertaken by Bernice Sandler into sexual harassment of students in higher education institutions. She was an American women's rights activist who was instrumental in getting Title IX passed, a US Law that prevented any education programme receiving Federal financial assistance discriminating on the basis of sex. 1980-08-01T00:00:00+0000Shankman, a Canadian born pathologist, 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.1980-08-18T00:00:00+0000Database was started by Margaret Dayhoff at the NBRF in the mid 1960s and comprised over 200,000 residues. Within a month of its operation more than 100 scientists had requested access to the database. The database was funded with contributions from m Genex, Merck, Eli Lilly, DuPont, Hoffman–La Roche, and Upjohn, and computer time donated by Pfizer Medical Systems.1980-09-15T00:00:00+0000Dayhoff is known as the founder of bioinformatics. This she did by pioneering the application of mathematics and computational techniques to the sequencing of proteins and nucleic acids and establishing the first publicly available database for research in the area. 1983-02-05T00:00:00+0000Two teams of scientists publish methods for the generation of chimeric monoclonal antibodies, that is antibodies possessing genes that are half-human and half mouse. Each team had developed their techniques separate from each other. The first team was lead by Michael Neuberger together with Terence Rabbitts and other colleagues at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. The second team consisted of Sherie Morrison and colleagues at Stanford University together with Gabrielle Boulianne and others at the University of Toronto. 1984-12-01T00:00:00+00001988-01-01T00:00:00+00001988-08-16T00:00:00+0000Recommends: 1) appointment of equal opportunity commissioners at all universities and research institutions; 2) establish job placement programmes for women scientists; 3) compensation for disadvantages due to childcare; introduce flexible working hours 1989-01-01T00:00:00+00001990-01-01T00:00:00+0000McClintock won the 1983 Nobel Prize. She demonstrated in maize experiments how genes can shift to different locations by themselves and established that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off.1992-09-02T00:00:00+0000Published as ‘Realising our Potential: A Strategy for Science, Engineering and Technology’ (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1993).1993-01-01T00:00:00+0000Participants come from European Commission, Member States and European Parliament. Key issues raised: 1) women do not have good access to decision-making in scientific research funding; 2) difficulties women face as result of inflexibility in career structures and lack of childcare; 3) need for positive action and integration of equal opportunities in science and technology.1993-02-15T00:00:00+0000Recommends 1) Government provide more childcare services and help with costs and facilitate schemes to encourage women to return to sciences after having a family; 2) Government and employers should set targets of at least 25% women in public appointments and senior position in SET by 2000; 3) Encourage greater media coverage of women’s contributions to SET. ‘The rising tide: A report on women and science, engineering and technology’, (London: HMSO). 1994-01-01T00:00:00+0000Study conducted by 3 tenured women. At time there were only 15 tenured women in 6 departments in MIT School of Science versus 194 men. 1994-06-01T00:00:00+0000Hodgkin won the 1964 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her contributions to the development of protein crystallography. She used the technique to determine the structure of many important biochemicals such as penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. 1994-07-29T00:00:00+0000The belief that adult stem cells, especially the blood stem cell, can give rise to cells such as brain, liver and cardiac gives rise to notion that adult stem cells could be used like embryonic counterparts for regenerative therapies, helping in degenerative diseases of the brain and heart. This marks a paradigm shift as it goes against dogma from decades of research and clinical success with the blood stem cell. 1996-01-01T00:00:00+0000Study revealed senior MIT faculty women tended to feel more marginalised than junior faculty and that women with children felt family demands were potential obstacle to career advancement. Evidence showed that percentage of women faculty in School of Science had not increased for at least a decade. 1996-01-01T00:00:00+0000Analysis undertaken by Christine Wenneras and Agnes Wold revealed inherent discrimination in peer review process against women applications in biomedical field. They published their results as 'Nepotism and sexism in peer-review', Nature, 387 (1997) 341-3. 1997-05-22T00:00:00+0000German Council of Science recommends the State and universities and research organisations provide adequate child care services and make appointment procedures gender-neutral to improve number of women in higher positions within science1998-01-01T00:00:00+00001998-01-01T00:00:00+0000Higher education institutions required to present plans of action for equality and collect data on distribution of scientific personnel by gender. Includes giving child rearing allowance for young women and men.1998-03-01T00:00:00+0000The Athena Project was set up by women in the academic science community. It led to the creation of the Scientific Women's Academic Network (SWAN)1999-01-01T00:00:00+0000Higher education institutions required to present plans of action for equality and collect data on distribution of scientific personnel by gender. Includes giving child rearing allowance for young women and men.1999-02-11T00:00:00+0000Elion was an American biochemist and pharmacologist renowned for developing new methods to design drugs that made took advantage of the biochemical differences between normal human cells and pathogens (disease-causing agents). The aim was to create a drug capable of killing or inhibiting the reproduction of pathogens without harming healthy cells. Elion helped develop a number of drugs for a variety of diseases, including leukaemia and malaria. One of her most notable achievements was the creation of the first immunosuppressive drug for organ transplant patients. In 1988 she was joined awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 'discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.'1999-02-21T00:00:00+0000Meeting held under auspices of European Commission's research directorate, DGXII, organised by Nicole Dewandre. Calls for and calls for establishment of network to document best practice in European Union member states1999-07-01T00:00:00+0000Each delegate assigned task to produce report describing existing national policies to promote women in science1999-11-01T00:00:00+0000N Krauzewicz, K Stokrova, C Jenkins, M Elliott, CF Higgns, BE Griffin, ‘Virus-like gene transfer to cell nuclei mediated by polyoma virus pseudocapsids’, Gene Therapy, 7 (2000), 2122-31.2000-01-01T00:00:00+0000Research Directorate-General, EC, Science Policies in the European Union: Promoting science through mainstreaming gender equality (2001), ISBN 92-828-8682-4. Proposes Member States pass legislation to oblige employers to keep collect statistics to monitor gender balance in terms of employment and pay in universities, research institutions2001-01-01T00:00:00+000015 million euro allocated to projects to network and raise gender awareness; encourage young women to undertake scientific careers, and retain them; on gender research and gender mainstreaming in research.2002-06-01T00:00:00+0000Foundation created by Nusslein-Volhard, 1995 Nobel Prize winner, to cover the costs of housework and childcare for talented women scientists with children undertaking graduate or postgraduate work at German universities or research institutes2004-01-01T00:00:00+0000Organisations awarded bronze, silver and gold awards to identify 'employers of choice'. Scheme evolved out of work between Athena Project and the Scientific Women's Academic Network (SWAN). Charter requires commitment at all levels of an organisation to tackle inequalities of women in science and chancing attitudes and culture. Charter supported by Equality Challenge Unit and UKRC.2005-06-22T00:00:00+0000Lederberg is best known for having discovered the lambda phage, an indispensable tool for studying gene regulation and genetic recombination. She also invented the replica plating technique which is pivotal to tracking antibiotic resistance. 2006-11-11T00:00:00+0000Chatterjee is renowned for her breakthroughs in the development of anti-malarial and anti-epileptic drugs. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in science from an Indian university - Calcutta University.2006-11-22T00:00:00+0000Saruhashi is renowned for being the first scientist to demonstrate the dangers of radioactive fallout in seawater that resulted from nuclear bomb testing in 1954. Her evidence was later used to prevent further nuclear testing by governments. Despite her achievement, she suffered discrimination as a woman scientist. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1957. Convinced that technical expertise was the key to women's independence she established the Society of Japanese Scientists in 1958 to promote women in science.2007-09-29T00:00:00+0000Action taken because of dismay over lack of promotion of women in academic medicine, especially in leadership posiitions2011-01-01T00:00:00+0000Yalow was an American medical physicist who shared the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the development of radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique. RIA uses two reagents. One is a radioisotope atom bound to a molecule of the target substance and the other is an antibody that will bind to the target substance when the two are in contact. Measurements are taken of the initial radioactivity of the mixture which is then added to a measured quantity of fluid, such as blood, that contains low concentrations of an unknown target substance. The test takes advantage of the fact that antibodies known to prefer to attach to non-radioactive molecules. Measurements are taken of the reduction in radioactivity of the antibody reagent to calculate the concentration of the target substance. The RIA method is now an important component in diagnostic tests, being used to measure the concentration of hormones, vitamins, viruses, enzymes, drugs and other substances. 2011-05-30T00:00:00+0000The patent was submitted by Jennifer Doudna, at the University of California Berkeley, and Emmanuell Charpentier, at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Germany. The application was for a patent to cover the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing in vitro.2012-05-25T00:00:00+0000M Jinek, K Chylinski, I Fonfara, M Hauer, J A Doudna, E Charpentier, 'A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity', Science, 337/6096 (2012): 816-21.2012-08-17T00:00:00+0000Levi-Montalcini is best known for sharing the Nobel Prize in 1986 for helping to discover and isolate the nerve growth factor which helps regulate the growth, maintenance, proliferation and survival of certian neurons. Banned by Mussolini from working in academia because she was Jewish, Levi-Montalcini conducted much of her early work in a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom. She later became the director of the Research Center of Neurobiology and the Laboratory of Cellular Biology in Washington University and founded the European Brain Research Institute. 2012-12-30T00:00:00+0000Askonas co-developed one of the first systems for the cloning of antibody-forming B cells in vivo, some of the earliest monoclonal antibodies. She was also one of the first scientists to isolate and clone virus specific T lymphocytes, laying the foundation for defining different influenza sub-sets and improving vaccines. 2013-01-09T00:00:00+0000Team of scientists led by Kathy Niakan based at Francis Crick Institute in London applied for sought permission from UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to use gene editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas on embryos less than 2 weeks old. Research designed to understand why some women lose their babies before term. 2015-09-18T00:00:00+00002015-10-05T00:00:00+0000Griffin was a leading expert on viruses that cause cancer. First woman appointed to Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital. In 1980 she completed the sequence of the poliovirus, the longest piece of eukaryotic DNA to be sequenced at that time. Devoted her life to understanding the Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of Burkitt's Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. 2016-06-13T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places
7 Nov 1867Marie Curie, nee Sklodowska, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, was born in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)CurieWarsaw
5 Apr 1901Hattie Elizabeth Alexander was born in New York City, USAAlexanderColumbia University
16 Jun 1902Barbara McClintock was born in Hartford CT, USAMcClintockUniversity of Missouri
22 Apr 1909Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin, ItalyLevi-MontalciniWashington University
10 May 1910Dorothy M Crowfoot Hodgkin was born in Cairo, EgyptHodgkinCairo, Egypt
19 Sep 1915Elizabeth Stern Shankman born in Cobalt, Ontario, CanadaSternUniversity of California at Los Angeles
23 Sep 1917Asima Chatterjee was born in Bengal, IndiaChatterjeeUniversity of Calcutta
23 Jan 1918Gertrude B Elion was born in New York NY, USAElionWellcome Research Laboratories
22 Mar 1920Katsuko Saruhashi was born in Tokyo, JapanSaruhashi 
25 Jul 1920Rosalind E Franklin was born in London, United KingdomFranklinKings College London
3 Feb 1921Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, EnglandBlackwell 
9 Mar 1921Evelyn Witkin was born in New York City, USAWitkinNew York City
19 Jul 1921Rosalyn Yalow was born in New York NY, USAYalowVeterans Administration Hospital
18 Dec 1922Esther Lederberg was born in Bronx, New York, USALederbergWisconsin University
1 Apr 1923Brigitte Askonas was born in Vienna, AustriaAskonasVienna
11 Mar 1925Margaret Dayhoff was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USADayhoffPhiladelphia
23 Jan 1930Beverly Griffin was born in Delhi, Louisiana, USAGriffinImperial College
30 Dec 1930Tu Youyou was born in Zhejiang, ChinaYouyouZhejiang
4 Jul 1934Marie Curie diedCurie 
27 Feb 1946Mary-Claire King was born in Illinois, USAKingIllinois
30 Jul 1947Francoise Barré-Sinoussi born in Paris, FranceBarre-SinoussiParis, France
1952First observation of the modification of viruses by bacteriaLuria, HumanUniversity of Illinois
January 1952X-ray diffraction image, produced by Rosalind Franklin, shows DNA to have regularly repeating helical structureFranklinKings College London
1 Jan 1953Ingeborg Hochmair-Desoyer was born in Vienna, AustriaHochmair-DesoyerVienna, Austria
April 1953Franklin's x-ray image of DNA publishedFranklinKings College London
17 Mar 1956Irène Joliot-Curie diedCurie 
1957Treaty of Rome principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal pay enshrined in European Commission Treaties 
16 Apr 1958Rosalind E Franklin diedFranklinKings College London
15 Apr 1961Carol W Greider was born in San Diego CA, USAGreiderJohns Hopkins University
16 Dec 1961First successful direct incorporation of functional DNA in human cellKrausUniversity of Tennessee
23 Jan 1962Concept of restriction and modification enzymes bornArber, DussoixUniversity of Geneva
1965First comprehensive protein sequence and structure computer data published as Atlas of Protein Sequence and StructureDayhoff, Eeek, LedleyNational Biomedical Research Foundation, Georgetown University
24 Jun 1968Hattie Elizabeth Alexander diedAlexanderColumbia University
1970 - 1972Means developed for cloning B cells that produce single antibodies with known specificityAskonas, Williamson, WrightNational Institute for Medical Research
1970US Women’s Equality Action League filed complaints of discrimination against over 200 academic institutions nationwide Sandler 
1971First plasmid bacterial cloning vector constructedBerg, Mertz, JacksonStanford University
June 1971First time potential biohazards of recombinant DNA raisedMertz, Berg, PollackStanford University
December 1971First experiments published demonstrating the use of restriction enzymes to cut DNADanna, NathansJohns Hopkins University
1972Beverly Griffin appointed head of nuclear acids research at Imperial Cancer Research FundGriffinImperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories
23 Jun 1972President Richard Nixon signs into federal law the Title IX Act, putting an end quotas against appointing women to university positions, including scienceSandler 
November 1972First easy-to-use technique published for constructing recombinant DNA. Berg, MertzStanford University Medical School
1980 - 1990Existence of the blood stem cell contestedDexter, Lord, Weissmann, Morrison
1980Polyoma virus DNA sequencedGriffin, Soeda, Arrand, WalshImperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories
August 1980US National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs called on higher education institutions to prohibit sexual harassment and put in place avenues for making complaints and implementing sanctionsSandler 
18 Aug 1980Elizabeth Stern Shankman diedShankmanUniversity of California at Los Angeles
1980Largest nucleic acid sequence database in the world made available free over telephone networkDayhoffNational Biomedical Research Foundation, Georgetown University
5 Feb 1983Margaret Dayhoff died in Silver Spring, Maryland, USADayhoffSilver Spring, Maryland
1984First chimeric monoclonal antibodies developed, laying foundation for safer and more effective monoclonal antibody therapeuticsNeuberger, Rabbitts, Morrison, Oi, Herzenberg, Boulianne, Schulman, HozumiLaboratory of Molecular Biology, Stanford Univerity Medical School
1988Beverly Griffin appointed first woman professor at Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith HospitalGriffinImperial College
16 Aug 1988European Parliament's Resolution on Women and Research highlights under-representation of women in science and calls for Member States to develop measures to promote womenEurope
1989First National Report in Germany on the Promotion of Women in Science  
1990Special funding programme launched by German Federal Government to increase number of women in top positions in science  
2 Sep 1992Barbara McClintock diedMcClintockUniversity of Missouri
1993UK Government review of science policy over previous 20 years recognised women as ‘biggest single most undervalued and … under-used human resource’ 
15 Feb 1993 - February 16, 1993International workshop held in Logue expresses concerns about lack of women in science  
1994UK Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology publishes report highlighting few women reach positions of seniority in science  
June 1994Informal poll of MIT women scientists with tenure reveals serious concerns about status and treatment of women in School of ScienceMassachusetts Institute of Technology
29 Jul 1994Dorothy M Crowfoot Hodgkin diedHodgkinOxford University
1996First reports that blood stem cell might be able to give rise to cells other than those of the blood systemBlau, Lagasse, Lemischka, Morrison, Thiese, Krause, Gussoni, Bjornson 
January 1996MIT Committee on Women issues first report on study of treatment of women faculty in School of Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
22 May 1997Wake-up call for many life sciences funding agencies of inherent discrimination against women applicants as result of analysis of Swedish Medical Research Council's grant selection scheme Wenneras, Wold, 
1998Amendments made to German Higher Education Framework Act to promote gender equality in universities and provide greater support for young scientists 
1998European Commission Research Directorate General set up an expert group to prepare a report on women-and-science policy in the European Union 
March 1998Academy of Finland set up working group to investigate career opportunities for women and ways to eliminate obstacles preventing equality in academic scientific community 
1999Athena Project set up in with mission to advance and promote careers of women in science, engineering and technology in UK higher education and research institutions 
11 Feb 1999Danish Ministry of Research and Information Technology launched initiative to promote women in science  
21 Feb 1999Gertrude B Elion diedElionWellcome Research Laboratories
July 1999Meeting of 70 European organisations in Brussels issues joint statement describing the under-representation of women in science as 'a serious obstacle for the development of the sciences and for European society' Dewandre 
November 1999Helsinki Group on Women and Science set up by European Commission  
1 Jan 2000Polyoma virus shown to be potential tool for delivering gene therapyKrauzewicz, Stokrova, Jenkins, Elliott, Higgns, GriffinImperial College, Czech Academy of Sciences, University of Wales
2001European Technology Assessment Network (ETAN) report demonstrated women held fewer than 10% top positions in academic system despite women making up half of student population in Europe 
June 2002European Commission's 6 th Framework Programme launched to support women in science 
2004Christiane Nusslein-Volhard Foundation establishedNusslein-VolhardMax Planck Institute
22 Jun 2005Athena SWAN Charter recognition scheme launched to advance representation of women in science, technology, medicine and mathematics in UK universities 
11 Nov 2006Esther Lederberg diedLederbergWisconsin University
22 Nov 2006Asima Chatterjee, an Indian organic chemist, diedChatterjeeUniversity of Calcutta
29 Sep 2007Katsuko Saruhashi diedSaruhashi 
1 Jan 2011UK government links NIHR funding to UK medical schools and British biomedical centres with Athena SWAN Award status 
30 May 2011Rosalyn Yalow diedYalowVeterans Administration Hospital
May 2012First patent application submitted for CRISPR-Cas 9 technologyDoudna, CharpentierUniversity of California Berkeley, University of Vienna
August 2012A group of scientists based at Howard Hughes Medical Institute published a radically new gene editing method that harnessed the CRISPR-Cas9 system Jinek, Chylinski, Fonfara, Hauer, Doudna, CharpentierUniversity of California Berkeley
30 Dec 2012Rita Levi-Montalcini diedLevi-MontalciniInstitute of Cell Biology of the CNR
9 Jan 2013Brigitte Askonas died in London, United KingdomAskonasLondon, United Kingdom
18 Sep 2015UK scientists sought license to genetically modify human embryos to study the role played by genes in the first few days of human fertilisationNaikanCrick Institute
5 Oct 2015Tu Youyou awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of artemisinin, a treatment for malariaYouyou 
13 Jun 2016Beverly Griffin diedGriffinImperial College