Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Sanger'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 and bacteriologist who provided the first evidence that that genes are made up of DNA. In 1944 he and colleagues conducted a series of experiments in mice using two sets of bacteria, one smooth (virulent) and the other rough (nonvirulent), associated with pneumonia. In the first instance they injected the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which went on to die. Next they injected the non-virulent bacteria into a mouse, which survived. They then heated the virulent bacteria to kill it and injected it into a mouse, which survived. Following this they injected a mixture of heat-killed bacteria with the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which died. Finally they injected a mixture of harmless bacteria with DNA extracted from the heated lethal bacteria in a mouse which died. The experiment showed that the harmless bacteria became lethal when mixed with DNA from the virulent bacteria. 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 1945 for this discovery.1955-03-11T00:00:00+0000Sumner was an American biochemist who showed that enzymes are proteins and can be crystalised, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946. He crystalised his first enzyme, urease, in 1926. This he achieved by mixing purified urease with acetone and then chilling it. Using chemical tests he showed the enzyme was a protein. His work provided the first proof that enzymes are proteins. 1955-08-12T00:00:00+0000After extensive investigations of the nutrient requirements of selected cells in culture, Harry Eagle, an American physician and cellular biologist, worked out the best medium to support the in vitro growth of two cell lines, one a mouse fibroblast, the other a human carcinoma. He showed that 27 components - 13 amino acids, 7 vitamins, glucose, and 6 salts – were important, and that if any one of them were omitted could result in the culture dying in two or three days. His work was published in H Eagle, 'Nutrition needs of mammalian cells in tissue culture', Science, 122 (1955), 501-04. 1955-09-16T00:00:00+0000The feat was achieved by Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat with the tobacco mosaic virus. He did this by stripping away the outer layer of one set of viruses with a common household detergent and then removed the cores of another set using another solution. Once this was done he coated leaves of tobacco plants with the virus extracts, making sure to keep them separate. None of the plants got infected. Frankel-Contrat then reformed the viruses by mixing the extracts, which proved sufficient to infect the plants. Fraenkel-Conrat's work settled a long-dispute about how genetic information controlled viral reproduction. He demonstrated that genetic information was carried in a particle of nucleic acid (RNA) at the core of each virus. Fraenkel-Conrat's research laid the foundation for scientists to study how viruses caused diseases like measles, mumps, chickenpox, flu and the common cold. His research was published in H Fraekel-Conrat, R C Williams, 'Reconstrution of active mosaic virus from its inactive protein and nucelic acid components', PNAS, 41/10 (1955), 690-98.1955-10-15T00:00:00+0000Moore was an American zoologist who devoted his career to studying the reoproductive tract of male mammals and the physiology of spermatozoa. He played a pivotal role in 1929 in isolating the testicular secretion containing the male sex hormones andresterone and testosterone. This discovery opened up the path to researching the chemical composition of the hormones and their production. 1955-10-16T00:00:00+0000Moniz was a Portuguese neurologist who pioneered the use of cerebral angiography. He developed the procedure on the back of his idea that the ability to visualise blood vessels would provide a more precise means to locate brain tumours. His technique involved the injection of radiopaque dyes into brain arteries and taking X-rays to see if there were any abnormalities. First presented in 1927, Moniz's technique paved the pay to using angiography to detect internal blockages of the artery. He was also awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his development of lobotomy for treating certain psychoses.1955-12-13T00:00:00+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+0000The discovery was made by Paul C. Zamecnik with his colleagues Mahlon Hoagland and Mary Stephenson. tRNA is essential to protein synthesis. The molecule helps shuttle amino acids to the ribosome, the cell's protein factory. The work was subsequently published in MB Hoagland, ML Stephenson, JF Scott, ML Stephenson, LI Hecht, PC Zamecnik, 'A soluble ribonucleic acid intermediate in protein synthesis', Journal Biological Chemistry, 231 (1958), 241-57. 1956-01-01T00:00:00+00001956-01-01T00:00:00+0000The molecule was first observed by the American scientists Elliot Volkin and Lazarus Astrachan in experiments conducted with bacteriophage-infected Escherichia coli. Calling the new molecule 'DNA-like RNA', Volkin and Astrachan published their finding in 'Phosphorus incorporation in Escherichia coli ribonucleic acid after infection with bacteriophage T2', Virology, 2 (1956), 149-61. 1956-01-17T00:00:00+0000MacKinnon is a molecular neurobiologist amnd biophysicist. In 1998 he helped to establish the 3-D structure of a potassium ion channel - a protein linked to transmitting electrical signals down the nerve and muscle cells. Such channels are important to the nervous system and the heart. They enable potassium ions to cross the cell membrane. By using X-ray crystallography MacKinnon and his colleagues managed to work out the structure of a potassium ion channel from an actinobacteria Streptomyces lividans. MacKinnon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003 on the basis of this work. 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. This 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+0000The preliminary finding was announced at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. It was achieved by Arthur Kornberg, an American biochemist, and his colleagues while studying Escherichia coli, a type of bacteria. The discovery that DNA polymerase, an enzyme, could replicate DNA was a major breakthrough because up to this point most scientists believed it was not possible for scientists to duplicate the genetic specificity that is required for DNA replication outside of an intact cell. Kornberg's work opened the way to the discovery of many other similar enzymes and the development of recombinant DNA. The work was published in A Kornberg, I R Lehman, E S Simms, 'Polydesoxyribonucleotide synthesis by enzymes from Escherichia coli', Fed Proc 15 (1956), 291.1956-04-16T00:00:00+0000The structure was worked out by Dorothy Hodgkin and her team using x-ray crystallography. The project was a major challenge because of the large size of the molecule and the fact that its atoms were largely unaccounted for. Dorothy Hodgkin, Jennifer Kamper, Maureen Mackay, Jennuy Pickworth, Kenneth N Trueblood, John G White, 'Structure of Vitamin B12', Nature, 178 (1956), 64-66. The achievement was described by Lawrence Bragg as significant 'as breaking the sound barrier'. It paved the way to the synthesis of the vitamin which is now given to patients with pernicious anaemia., 1956-07-14T00:00:00+0000Duggar was an American botanist who is best known for his discovery of chlortetracycline (Aureomycin), the first of a number of tetracycline antibiotics. In 1943, at the age of 74, he managed to isolate the organism that produced the antibiotic Auremycin while experimenting with field soil samples. Introduced into the market in 1948, Auremycin paved the way to the development of new generations of antibiotics. Known nationally as an exceptional plant pathologist, Duggar wrote three key horticulture textbooks and taught at several well-respected institutions including Harvard, Radcliffe, and Cornell universities.1956-09-10T00:00:00+0000The Sabin vaccine is an oral vaccine that contains weakened forms of strains of polio viruses. It proved easier to give than an earlier injectable vaccine developed by Jonas Salk, in 1954, and its effects lasted longer. The vaccine was designed to work in the intestines to block the polio virus from entering the bloodstream. It therefore provided a means to break transmission chain of the virus and opened the way to eradicating polio. 1956-10-06T00:00:00+00001957-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1955Sanger completes the full sequence of amino acids in insulinSangerCambridge UniversityDNA Sequencing
2 Feb 1955Oswald T Avery diedAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA, Genetics
11 Mar 1955Alexander Fleming diedFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents
12 Aug 1955James B Sumner diedSumnerCornell UniversityBiochemistry
16 Sep 1955Essential compounds identified to sustain reproduction of human and other mammalian cells in the laboratoryEagleNational Institutes of HealthCell culture
15 Oct 1955Virus dismantled and put back together to reconstitute a live virusFraenkel-ConratUniversity of California BerkleyDNA, Virology
16 Oct 1955Carl R Moore diedC MooreUniversity of ChicagoBiochemistry, Endocrinology
13 Dec 1955Egas Moniz diedMonizUniversity of LisbonNeuroscience
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
1956Transfer RNA (tRNA) discoveredZamecnik, Hoagland, Stephenson,Harvard UniversityDNA, RNA
1956Alice Stewart demonstrated the link between x-rays of pregnant women and childhood cancerStewart  
1956First observation of messenger RNA, or mRNAAstrachan, VolkinOak Ridge National LaboratoryDNA, RNA, genetics, mRNA
19 Feb 1956Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USAMackinnonRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry, X ray crystallography
17 Mar 1956Irène Joliot-Curie diedJoliot-Curie Radioisotopes
16 Apr 1956DNA polymerase isolated and purified and shown to replicate DNAKornberg, Bessman, Simms, LehmanWashington University in St. LouisDNA polymerase, Recominant DNA
14 Jul 1956Complete structure of vitamin B12 publishedHodgkin, Kamper, MacKay, Pickworth, Trueblood, WhiteOxford UniversityX ray crystallography
10 Sep 1956Benjamin M Duggar diedDuggarUniversity of Wisconsin, Lederle LaboratoriesAntibacterial agents
6 Oct 1956Albert Sabin announced his oral polio vaccine was ready for mass testing on an international basisAlbert SabinRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchVaccines
1957The Associacion Quimica Argentina awards Milstein a prize for the best doctoral thesis in chemistry that yearMilsteinUniversity of Buenos Aires 


Sanger completes the full sequence of amino acids in insulin

2 Feb 1955

Oswald T Avery died

11 Mar 1955

Alexander Fleming died

12 Aug 1955

James B Sumner died

16 Sep 1955

Essential compounds identified to sustain reproduction of human and other mammalian cells in the laboratory

15 Oct 1955

Virus dismantled and put back together to reconstitute a live virus

16 Oct 1955

Carl R Moore died

13 Dec 1955

Egas Moniz died


Experiments with mice confirm radiation recovery factor is a distinctive cell


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


Transfer RNA (tRNA) discovered


Alice Stewart demonstrated the link between x-rays of pregnant women and childhood cancer


First observation of messenger RNA, or mRNA

19 Feb 1956

Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USA

17 Mar 1956

Irène Joliot-Curie died

16 Apr 1956

DNA polymerase isolated and purified and shown to replicate DNA

14 Jul 1956

Complete structure of vitamin B12 published

10 Sep 1956

Benjamin M Duggar died

6 Oct 1956

Albert Sabin announced his oral polio vaccine was ready for mass testing on an international basis


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

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