Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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The 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+0000Developed by Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, the drug, ARC-520, is administered with the antiviral entecavir. The treatment cleared the HBsAg from one patient and substantially reduced it in the remaining patients. The results were presented to the European Association for the Study of the Liver. 2018-05-02T00:00:00+0000Falkow was an American microbiologist who made his scientific mark by showing how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. During the 1960s he demonstrated that bacteria could acquire resistance by swapping genetic material via plasmids, small microbial DNA molecules. Thereafter he focused his attention on how pathogens cause disease and in 1985 helped to identify a single genetic locus in Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, a Gram-negative bacteria, that accounts for its ability to infect cultured animal cells. He later showed that a sub-type of E. coli caused a life-threatening diarrhoea prevalent in many low-income countries. Known as the founder of molecular pathogenesis, Falkow's work paved the way to the development of new vaccines, including for whooping cough. He also helped to devise a uniform nomenclature for bacterial plasmids2018-05-05T00:00:00+0000Skou was a Danish biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1997 for discovering an ion-transporting enzyme called sodium-potassium-activated adenosine triphosphatase (Na+-K+ ATPase), which is found in the plasma membrane of animal cells. The enzyme is important to the transport of molecules through a cell's membrane. Skou made the discovery in the late 1950s. A number of other similar ATPase-based enzymes were discovered later, including one that helps control muscle contraction.2018-05-28T00:00:00+0000Boyer was an American biochemist and analytical chemist renowned for helping to understand the enzymatic mechanism involved in the production of the energy-storage molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which fuels the metabolic processes of all living things. This he did in the 1970s whle based at UCLA where he was the founding director of the university's Molecular Biology Institute. In 1997 Boyer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on ATP synthesis.2018-06-02T00:00:00+0000Carlsson was a Swedish neuropharmacologist who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system.' This was based on the work he did in 1957 in which he demonstrated dopamine to be a brain neurotransmitter that was connected with the control of movement. He went on to show that the drug L-Dopa, a precursor of dopamnine, could help alleviate the symptoms in patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease. His research also paved the way to the development of fluoxetine (Prozac), one of today's most widely used antidepressant drugs. 2018-06-29T00:00:00+00002018-07-01T00:00:00+0000The test analyses a group of 21 genes found in breast cancer and works out what the risk is of cancer recurring. A trial supported by the National Cancer Institute with 10,273 patients with the most common forms of breast cancer, showed that the test was highly accurate in determining which women would benefit most from chemotherapy after an operation to remove the cancer and who could be safely spared such treatment. The trial was led by Joseph A Sparano at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center, New York. Results from the trial, presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology in California in Chicago, were described by doctors as 'practice changing'. The test, called Oncotype DX, was developed by Genomic Health, a Californian diagnostics company. The trial's results were published in JA Sparano, et al, 'Adjuvant chemotherapy guided by a 21-gene expression assay in breast cancer', New England Journal of Medicine, 379 (July 12 2018), 111-21. 2018-07-12T00:00:00+0000The drug, patisiran, was approved for the treatment of a rare, progressive polyneuropathy caused by hereditary transthyretin-mediated, which affects approximately 50,000 people worldwide. Developed by Alynylam Pharmaceuticals, patisiran targets mRNAs for mutated transthyretin, which causes peripheral amyloidosis. The drugs works by delivering small interfering RNAs to the liver where they bind and degrade transthyretin messenger RNA. 2018-08-14T00:00:00+0000The phase 1/2 trial is designed to test the genome-editing technique in patients with transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder. Sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics the trial is being conducted at a single hospital in Regensburg Germany and will recruit 12 adults. It is testing CTX001, a gene-editing therapy that targets a region of DNA that acts like a brake on production of fetal haemoglobin, a type of haemoglobin that the body usually stops producing after the first months of life. Treatment involves taking blood from the patient and genetically altering them in the laboratory so that they when reintroduced into the patient are able to produce red blood cells that contain fetal haemoglobulin. 2018-08-27T00:00:00+0000Allison helped to demonstrate the importance of blocking CTLA-4, a protein found on T-cells, for cancer treatment, which laid the foundation for the development of ipilimumab. Honjo discovered, PD-1, another type of protein found on T-cells which cancer cells were subsequently discovered to hijack to evade attack by the immune system. 2018-10-01T00:00:00+0000Shimomura was a Japanese organic chemist and marine biologist who shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2008 for discovering a green fluorescent protein (GFP) in a small-mouse-sized jellyfish. The fact that the protein emits a green light in the presence UV lights makes it very useful for many different applications. Organisms, for example, can be genetically engineered with the gene for the protein. This makes it possible to study the inside of a living cell on an unprecedented scale. 2018-10-19T00:00:00+0000The researchers inserted genetic instructions into a virus called enadenotuvirev to produce a protein, called a bispecific T-cell engager. Already being clinically tested for treating carcinomas the virus has been bred to infect only cancer cells and leave healthy ones alone. The objective is to hijack the virus's machinery so that the T-cell engager is only produced in infected cancer cells and nowhere else in the body. Such an approach aims to kill both carcinoma cells and adjacent cells that are tricked into shielding the cancer from destruction from the immune system. Funded by the MRC and Cancer Research UK, the scientists successfully tested the innovative viral delivery system on fresh human cancer samples collected from consenting patients, including solid prostate cancedr tumours. The results were published in JD Freedman et al, 'An Oncolytic Virus Expressing a T-cell Engager Simultaneously Targets Cancer and Immunosuppressive Stromal Cells', Cancer Research (2018), 1-14. 2018-11-16T00:00:00+0000A chemist and biophysicist, Klug won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of crystallographic electron microscopy. He used the technique to investigate nucleic acid-protein complexes and the structure of viruses. He developed an interest in viruses after meeting Rosalind Franklin in late 1953. Klug also discovered zinc-finger proteins, a class of proteins that bind specific DNA sequences. Scientists now use the modular nature of these proteins to design synthetic proteins for targeted therapies. Klug left Lithuania for South Africa with his Jewish parents when he was two. He went to England after completing his master's degree. Klug was the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1986-1996) and President of the Royal Society (1995-2000).2018-11-20T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
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
2 May 2018Positive results for RNAi drug for treating chronic hepatitis b reported from 8-person clinical trial Arrowhead PharmaceuticalsRNA interference
5 May 2018Stanley Falkow diedFalkowGeorgetown University School of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Stanford UniversityAntimicrobial resistance, Plasmids
28 May 2018Jens C Skou diedSkouAarhus UniversityCell, Biochemistry
2 Jun 2018Paul D Boyer diedPaul BoyerUniversity of California, Los AngelesBiochemistry
29 Jun 2018Arvid Carlsson diedCarlssonGoteborg UniversityNeuroscience
Jul 2018Seattle Genetics and Astellas Pharma launched global phase III trials for enfortumab vedotin for treating bladder cancer Seattle Genetics, Astellas PharmaMonoclonal antibodies, Oncology
12 Jul 2018Genetic test shown to accurately predict which women benefit from chemotherapySparanoGenomic HealthDNA sequencing, Genomics, Oncology
14 Aug 2018FDA approved first-ever drug based on RNAi Alynylam PharmaceuticalsRNA interference
27 Aug 2018First CRISPR-Cas9 clinical trial launched Vertex Pharmaceuticals, CRSIPR TherapeuticsCRISPR-Cas9, Gene therapy
1 Oct 2018James Allison and Tasuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of immune checkpoint inhibitors for cancer therapyAllison, HonjoUniversity of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Kyoto UniversityCancer immunotherapy, Immune checkpoint inhibitors, Oncology
19 Oct 2018Osamu Shimomura diedShimomura Princeton University 
16 Nov 2018Virus genetically engineered to kill cancer cells opening new immunotherapy avenueFreedman, Duffy, Lei-Rossman, Muntzer, Scott, Hagel, Campo, Bryant, Verrill, Lambert, Miller, Champion, Seymour, Fisher, RichardsonOxford UniversityCancer immunotherapy
20 Nov 2018Aaron Klug diedKlugBirkbeck College, Laboratory of Molecular BiologyX ray crystallography, RNA, Zinc fingers, Virology

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

2 May 2018

Positive results for RNAi drug for treating chronic hepatitis b reported from 8-person clinical trial

5 May 2018

Stanley Falkow died

28 May 2018

Jens C Skou died

2 Jun 2018

Paul D Boyer died

29 Jun 2018

Arvid Carlsson died

Jul 2018

Seattle Genetics and Astellas Pharma launched global phase III trials for enfortumab vedotin for treating bladder cancer

12 Jul 2018

Genetic test shown to accurately predict which women benefit from chemotherapy

14 Aug 2018

FDA approved first-ever drug based on RNAi

27 Aug 2018

First CRISPR-Cas9 clinical trial launched

1 Oct 2018

James Allison and Tasuku Honjo were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of immune checkpoint inhibitors for cancer therapy

19 Oct 2018

Osamu Shimomura died

16 Nov 2018

Virus genetically engineered to kill cancer cells opening new immunotherapy avenue

20 Nov 2018

Aaron Klug died

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