Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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The Prize was awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice, three scientists behind discovery of Hepatitis C virus which causes damage to the liver, including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. In recent years hepatitis C has had considerably more attention and research funding than hepatitis B, which causes similar symptoms. Yet hepatitis B is considerably more common and causes more liver-rated cancer and death worldwide than hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is also approximately 5-10 times more infectious than hepatitis C. Unlike Hepatitis C, which usually only spreads through blood-to blood contact, hepatitis B is spread from contact with bodily fluids of a person who has the infection. 2020-10-05T00:00:00+0000Doudna and Charpentier's development of the CRISPR/Cas9 method together with other colleagues has radically transformed the process for gene editing. Enabling genetic engineering to be carried out on an unprecedented scale at very low cost, CRISPR/Cas9 is now exploited for a wide range of applications ranging from agriculture through to human health. 2020-10-07T00:00:00+0000An experimental lentiviral gene therapy developed by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Great Ormond Street Hospital in London was given to 50 children diagnosed with adenosine deaminase deficiency, or ADA-SCID, aged from 4 months to 16 years in phase 1/2 clinical trials. Most of the participants acquired and retrained robust immune function between two and three years after the treatment. The results were published in DB Kohn, C Booth, et al 'Autologous Ex Vivo Lentiviral Gene Therapy for Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency', New England Journal of Medicine 384 (2002), 2002-13.2021-05-12T00:00:00+0000The patient was a 58 year old man whose vision was destroyed by retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder which involves the break down of cells that absorb and convert light into brain signals. The gene therapy, also known as optogenetics, was designed to make new cells light-sensitive. Led by Dr. Jose-Alain Sahel, chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh, the treatment involved injecting a adeno-associated viral vector engineered to contain the genetic coding for a channelrhodopsin called ChrimsonR, which is capable of sensing amber light. After 5 months the patient was given special image-enhancing goggles which enabled him to see images and moving objects. The case was published in J-A Sachel, 'Partial recovery of visual function in a blind patient after optogenetic therapy', Nature Medicine, 24 May 2021. The treatment was given as part of a multicentre phase 1/2a trial run by GenSight Biologics. 2021-05-24T00:00:00+0000The treatment was given to Arthur Morgan, a five month old baby diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disease linked with paralysis, muscle weakness and progressive loss of movement. Most children born with the disease have a life expectancy of about two years. The treatment, Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec), developed by Novartis, usually costs £1.79m per dose and is one of the most expensive drugs in the world, NHS England has negotiated a discount for NHS patients under a managed access agreement, which allows for up to 80 patients to receive the drug each year. Arthur was treated at Evelina London Children's Hospital.2021-05-25T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
5 Oct 2020Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for discovery of Hepatitis C virusHarvey Alter, Michael Houghton, Charles Rice, Washington University in St. LouisNational Institutes of Health, Chiron CorporationInfectious diseases,
7 Oct 2020Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna 'for the development of a method for genome editing'.Doudna, CharpentierUniversity California Berkeley, University of UmeaCRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing,
12 May 2021Gene therapy reported to restore immune function in children with rare immunodeficiencyDonald Kohn, Claire BoothUniversity of California Los Angeles, Great Ormond Street HospitalGene therapy
24 May 2021Gene therapy reported to restore partial vision to blind person Sahel, Boulanger-Scemama, Pagot, Arleo, Galluppi, Martel, Degli, Delaux, de Saint Aubert, De Montleau, Gutman, Audo, Duebel, Picaud, Dalkara, Blouin, Taiel, RoskaSorbonne University, University of Pittsburgh, GenSight BiologicsGene therapy, Ophthalmology
25 May 2021First NHS patient treated with gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy Novartis, Evelina London Children's HospitalGene therapy

5 Oct 2020

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for discovery of Hepatitis C virus

7 Oct 2020

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna 'for the development of a method for genome editing'.

12 May 2021

Gene therapy reported to restore immune function in children with rare immunodeficiency

24 May 2021

Gene therapy reported to restore partial vision to blind person

25 May 2021

First NHS patient treated with gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy

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