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.

The test detects circulating tumour DNA. It was investigated using blood samples from 161 patients with stage 2 and 3 melanoma who had received surgery. Results showed that skin cancer was much more likely to return within a year of surgery in patients with faults in either BRAF or NRAS genes. R J Lee et al, 'Circulating tumor DNA predicts survival in patients with resected high-risk stage II/III melanoma', Annals of Oncology, mdx717, https://doi.org/10.1093/annonc/mdx7172017-11-03T00:00:00+0000CTJ van Velthoven, A de Morree, I M Enger, J O Brett, T A Rando, 'Transcriptional Profiling of Quiescent Muscle Stem Cells In Vivo', Cell Reports, 21/1 (2017), 1994-2004. 2017-11-14T00:00:00+0000Discovery made as a result of study of 177 members of the Old Order of Amish community in Indiana. S. Khan, et al, 'A null mutation in SERPINE1 protects against biological aging in humans', Science Advances, 3/11 (2017), DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao16172017-11-15T00:00:00+0000Treatment involved editing the patient's DNA using zinc finger nucleases technique. It was carried out on Brian Madeux, a 44 year old man suffering from Hunter syndrome, a metabolic disorder caused by a gene error. The treatment was carried out by Paul Harmatz and his team at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. The patient was reported not to have experienced any major side effects after the treatment and no safety issued emerged in subsequent months. 2017-11-16T00:00:00+0000Patients with severe haemophilia A received a single infusion of a copy of a missing gene that allows their cells to produce Factor VIII, a protein needed to stop bleeding. This was delivered using an adeno-associated virus vector. The patients were enrolled between September 2015 and April 2016 into one of three dose cohorts at five sites across the UK. The five UK trial sites included: The Royal London, Guys and St Thomas', Birmingham, Cambridge and Hampshire hospitals. At 54 week follow-up 85% of the patients were found to have normal or near normal Factor VIII levels. Thirteen of the patients no longer needed their previously regular treatment. S. Rangarajan, et al, 'AAV5–Factor VIII Gene Transfer in Severe Hemophilia A', New England Journal of Medicine (9 Dec 2017), DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1708483.2017-12-09T00:00:00+0000Developed by Spark Therapeutics and Novartis, the drug (Voretigene neparvovec/Luxturna) aims to correct restore vision in patients born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic retinal disease. Those with the condition have mutations in both copies of the RPE65 gene which cause sight loss from an early age and eventually causes blindness. The treatment aims to provide a working copy of the RPE gene.2017-12-19T00:00:00+00002018-01-01T00:00:00+0000C T Charlesworth et al, 'Identification of Pre-Existing Adaptive Immunity to Cas9 Proteins in Humans', bioRXiv (2018), https://doi.org/10.1101/2433452018-01-05T00:00:00+0000The test hunts for 16 genes that regularly arise in cancer and 8 proteins released by tumours. It was trialled in 1,005 patients with cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, oesophagus, colon, lung or breast that had not yet spread to other tissues. The work was published in J.D. Cohen et al, Detection and localization of surgically resectable cancers with a multi-analyte blood test', Science, 18 Jan 2018, eaar3247, DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3247 2018-01-17T00:00:00+0000Z. Liu et al, 'Cloning of macaque monkeys by somatic cell nuclear transfer', Cell (2018), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.01.020 2018-01-24T00:00:00+0000A team of scientists from the UK, USA and Canada showed the device to be useful in tracing infectious diseases like Ebola and the Zika virus in Africa and the US. The device, called the MiniOn sequencer, was developed by Nick Loman and his doctoral student Josh Quick at the University of Birmingham. The device works by passing long strands of DNA through a tiny hole (the eponymous nanopore). Each of strand transmits a unique electrical signal as it passes through the pore, making it possible sequence the 4 bases of the DNA. The method allows for ultra long sequences of DNA to be worked out, 8,000 times longer than a typical sequencing read. It also makes it possible to sequence previously uncharacterised regions of the genome. Details of the research carried out with device were published in M Jain et a, 'Nanopore sequencing and assembly of a human genome with ultra-long reads', Nature Biotechnology, 36 (2018), 338-45.2018-01-29T00:00:00+0000The work was undertaken by a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh led by Evelyn Telfer. It involved taking tiny pieces of ovarian tissue from 10 women undergoing elective caesarean surgery extracting priorial follicles, small structures that have the potential to release an egg, which were then placed in a nutrient-rich liquid to grow. The team then carefully removed the fragile, immature eggs and some surrounding cells from the follicles and placed them on a special membrane with the addition of growth-supporting proteins so that they could grow to become the size you would see of an egg during ovulation. Most of the eggs failed to grow, but 10% completed their journey to maturity - that is they were able to divide and halve their chromosomes so they were ready to be fertilised by sperm. The work was published in M McLaughlin, DF Albertini, WHB Wallace, RA Anderson, EE Telfer, Molecular Human Reproduction, 24/3 (March 2018) 135-42. DOI: 10.1093/molehr/gay002. 2018-01-30T00:00:00+00002018-02-01T00:00:00+0000The drug was developed by Seattle Genetics with Astellas Pharma. 2018-03-01T00:00:00+0000First discovered by Array Biopharma and then licensed to Cascadian Therapeutics, tucatinib is designed to target HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) ‘tyrosine kinase inhibitor’ (TKI), an enzyme that helps to promote the growth of tumors in HER2 positive cancers.2018-03-01T00:00:00+0000A randomised pilot study was run to assess two possible routes of FMT delivery, colonic and nasogastric, in patients with ulcerative colitis. The trial sought to determine the optimum route of FMT delivery for the treatment of UC and the efficacy of such treatment.2018-03-01T00:00:00+0000Sulston was a biologist who played a central role in sequencing the genome of the Caenorhabditis elegans, a transparent nematode (roundworm). It was the first animal to have its genome sequenced. Based on his work with the nematode Sulston helped set up the project to sequence the human genome which he did as director of the Sanger Centre. The first draft of the human genome sequence was completed in 2000. Sulston shared the Nobel Prize in 2002 for identifying how genes regulate the life cycle of cells through apoptosis. 2018-03-09T00:00:00+0000Douglas Waters, an 86 year old patient at Moorfield Eye Hospital in London gained improved eyesight in his right eye after having stem cells inserted underneath the rods and cones in the back of his eye. The stem cells were grown in a patch and were designed to provide new retinal pigment epithelium. While the patient's eyesight was not completely restored, he gained a renewed ability to read the newspaper. Another patient with the same condition who received the same treatment also experienced some improvements to her eyesight. Both patients, who were taking part in a phase I trial, maintained improved vision for a year after the treatment. The results were published in L da Cruz, K Fynes, O Georgiadis et al, 'Phase 1 clinical study of an embryonic stem cell–derived retinal pigment epithelium patch in age-related macular degeneration', Nature Biotechnology, 36 (2018) 328-37. 2018-03-19T00:00:00+0000The aim of the drug is to mute hepatitis B genes to give the immune system a chance to fight the hepatitis B infection.2018-03-27T00:00:00+0000Twenty-two patients were treated in the trial over 42 months in six centres around the world. The treatment consisted of taking immature stem cells from the patient's bone marrow and using a harmless virus to infect the cells with a copy of the normal globin gene. The new genetically altered cells were then reintroduced into the patient's bloodstream after their marrow had been cleared of diseased cells using chemotherapy. Nine out of the twenty-two patients severe beta thalassemia were able to cut down on the number of transfusions they needed by 74%, with three of them no longer needing any transfusions at all. The same was true of the twelve out of thirteen patients with less severe thalassemia. A A Thompson et al, 'Gene therapy in patients with transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia', New England Journal of Medicine, 378 (2018), 1479-93.2018-04-19T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
3 Nov 2017Research showed simple blood test can identify patients at most risk of skin cancer returningLee, Gremel, Marshall, Myers, Fisher, Dunn, Dhomen, Corrie, Middleton, Lorigan, MaraisUniversity of ManchesterOncology, DNA sequencing
14 Nov 2017Stem cells in the body found to have significantly different gene-expression profile than stem cells isolated and cultivated in the laboratory van Velthoven, de Morree, Enger, Brett, Rando, Stanford UniversityStem cells
15 Nov 2017Rare mutation of gene called Serpine 1 discovered to protect against biological ageing processKhan, Shah, Klyachko, Baldridge, Eren, Place, Aviv, Puterman, Lloyd-Jones, Heiman, Miyata, Gupta, Shapiro, VaughanNorthwestern University, University of British Columbia, New Jersey Medical School, Tohoku University, DNA sequencing, Genetics, Genomics
16 Nov 2017First patient received therapy involving gene editing inside the bodyHarmatz, MadeuxUniversity of California San FranciscoGene therapy, Gene editing, Zinc fingers
9 Dec 2017Gene therapy shown to be safe and efficacious treatment for haemophilia A in British trialsRangarajan, Walsh, Lester, Perry, Madan, Laffan, Hua Yu, Vettermann, Pierce, Wong, PasiBarts Health NHS Trust, Queen Mary University, BioMarin PharmaceuticalGene therapy
19 Dec 2017US FDA approved gene therapy approved to treat rare genetic retinal disease Novartis, Spark TherapeuticsGene therapy, Ophthalmology
2018Sharma elected to join the American Society for Clinical InvestigationSharma  
5 Jan 2018Researchers identify pre-existing antibodies targeting CAS9 proteins raising possibility of immune responses undermining utility of CRISPR-Cas9 for gene therapyCharlesworth, Deshpande, Dever, Dejene,Gomez-Ospina, Mantri, Pavel-Dinu, Camarena, Weinberg, PorteusStanford UniversityGene therapy, Gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9
17 Jan 2018Blood test detecting mutated DNA and proteins released by tumours shown to pick up early signs of 8 common cancersCohen, Yuxuan Wang, Thoburn, Afsari, Danilova. Douville, Javed, Wong, Mattox, Hruban, Wolfgang, Goggins, Molin, Wang, Roden, Klein, Ptak, Dobbyn, Schaefer, Silliman, Popoli, Vogelstein, Browne, Schoen, Brand, Tie, Gibbs, Wong, Mansfield, Jen, Hanash, FalcJohns Hopkins UniversityDiagnostics, Oncology
24 Jan 2018Chinese scientists cloned the first monkeys by somatic cell nuclear transferLiu, Cai, Wang, Nie, Zhang, Xu, Xiatong, Zhang, Lu, Poo, SunChinese Academy of SciencesCloning
29 Jan 2018Handheld device using nanotechnology shown to be promising tool for sequencing human genomeLoman, Quick, Jain, Koren, Miga, Rand, Sasani, Tyson, Beggs, Dilthey, Fiddes, Malla, Marriot, Nieto, O'Grady, Olsen, Pedersen, Rhie, Richardson, Quinlan, Snutch, Tee, Paten, Philippy, Simpson, LooseUniversity of Birmingham, University of Nottingham, University of Utah, University of British Columbia, University of East Anglia, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, University of California Santa Cruz, National Human Genome Research InstituteDNA sequencing, Genomics
30 Jan 2018First human eggs grown in laboratoryTelfer, McLaughlin, Albertini, Wallace, AndersonUniversity of EdinburgReproduction
Feb 2018Hepatitis B Foundation Drug Watch listed 36 drugs at various development stages for chronic hepatitis B   
Mar 2018FDA granted drug breakthrough therapy designation to enfortumab vedotin for treating metastatic urothelial cancer Seattle Genetics, Astellas PharmaMonoclonal antibodies, Oncology
Mar 2018Seattle paid $614.1 million to acquire rights to tucatinib from Cascadian Therapeutics Seattle Genetics, Cascadian TherapeuticsOncology
Mar 2018 - Apr 2019STOP-Colitis Pilot TrialUniversity of BirminghamFaecal microbiota transplant
9 Mar 2018John E Sulson diedSulstonLaboratory of Molecular Biology, Sanger InstituteCell, Genetics, DNA sequencing
19 Mar 2018Stem cell treatment reported to be promising treatment for age-related macular degenerationda Cruz, Fynes, Georgiadis, Kerby, Luo, Ahmado, Vernon, CoffeyUniversity College LondonStem cells
27 Mar 2018Dosing trial launched with humans to test use of RNA interference drug to treat hepatitis B Arrowhead PharmaceuticalsRNA interference
19 Apr 2018Gene therapy shown to be promising treatment in clinical trials for beta thalassemiaThompson, Walters, Kwiatkowski, Rasko, Ribeil, Hongeng, Magrin, Schiller, Payen, Smeraro, Moshous, LefrerNorth Western University, University of California San Francisco, University of California Los Angeles, University of Sydney, University of Paris, Harvard University, Mahidol University, German Cancer Research CentreGene therapy

3 Nov 2017

Research showed simple blood test can identify patients at most risk of skin cancer returning

14 Nov 2017

Stem cells in the body found to have significantly different gene-expression profile than stem cells isolated and cultivated in the laboratory

15 Nov 2017

Rare mutation of gene called Serpine 1 discovered to protect against biological ageing process

16 Nov 2017

First patient received therapy involving gene editing inside the body

9 Dec 2017

Gene therapy shown to be safe and efficacious treatment for haemophilia A in British trials

19 Dec 2017

US FDA approved gene therapy approved to treat rare genetic retinal disease

2018

Sharma elected to join the American Society for Clinical Investigation

5 Jan 2018

Researchers identify pre-existing antibodies targeting CAS9 proteins raising possibility of immune responses undermining utility of CRISPR-Cas9 for gene therapy

17 Jan 2018

Blood test detecting mutated DNA and proteins released by tumours shown to pick up early signs of 8 common cancers

24 Jan 2018

Chinese scientists cloned the first monkeys by somatic cell nuclear transfer

29 Jan 2018

Handheld device using nanotechnology shown to be promising tool for sequencing human genome

30 Jan 2018

First human eggs grown in laboratory

Feb 2018

Hepatitis B Foundation Drug Watch listed 36 drugs at various development stages for chronic hepatitis B

Mar 2018

FDA granted drug breakthrough therapy designation to enfortumab vedotin for treating metastatic urothelial cancer

Mar 2018

Seattle paid $614.1 million to acquire rights to tucatinib from Cascadian Therapeutics

Mar 2018 - Apr 2019

STOP-Colitis Pilot Trial

9 Mar 2018

John E Sulson died

19 Mar 2018

Stem cell treatment reported to be promising treatment for age-related macular degeneration

27 Mar 2018

Dosing trial launched with humans to test use of RNA interference drug to treat hepatitis B

19 Apr 2018

Gene therapy shown to be promising treatment in clinical trials for beta thalassemia

Respond to or comment on this page on our feeds on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.