Antibodies: Timeline of key events

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Porter was a biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1972 for helping to determine the chemical structure of antibodies. This was based on some experiments he carried out between 1949 and 1960 while based at St Mary's Medical School in London. He showed that antibodies have a Y-shaped structure, consisting of a large component that has no antigen-combining capacity, at the bottom, and two smaller fragments at the top which have active sites that bind to the antigen. Porter's understanding of the antibody structure and its implications for function opened up the way to the potential use of antibodies as therapeutics and vaccines.1917-10-08T00:00:00+0000Koshland was an immunologist who was a major pioneer in the field of antibodies. Her work was instrumental in showing antibodies to be discrete entities and knowledge about the origins of antibody specificity. In the 1960s, she demonstrated that the efficiency and effectiveness with which antibodies can combat foreign invaders is determined by their different amino acid compositions. By the 1990s she had unravelled the process that accompanies and directs B cell activation and maturation. A major role-model for other women scientists, Koshland was nearly not awarded her PhD because her professor thought it would be a waste because she was pregnant. 1921-10-25T00:00:00+0000Askonas was a leading figure in immunology whose work helped to establish the basic mechanisms and components of immune system. Together with colleagues she 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+0000Lloyd Felton, a scientist, develops a precipitation technique for the isolation of pure antibodies as part of an effort to develop a therapy for pneumonia. 1926-01-01T00:00:00+0000Milstein was an Argentinian biochemist. Together with Georges Kohler, Milstein developed the first unlimited supply of long-lasting monoclonal antibodies. Their technique now underpins the development and application of many diagnostics and therapeutics. Kohler and Milstein devised the method as part of their search for a tool to investigate how the immune system can make so many different kinds antibodies, each able to bind to a highly specific receptor on foreign substances that invade the body. 1927-10-08T00:00:00+0000Fibiger published the first randomisation method for a clinical trial. The aim of the trial, conducted in 1898, was to investigate the effect of serum therapy on diphtheria. Fibiger would later go on to win the 1926 Nobel Prize for Medicine for demonstrating a roundworm could cause stomach cancer in rats and mice. Following his death researchers showed that the roundworm could not cause cancer and were due to vitamin deficiency and that Fibiger had mistakenly confused non-cancerous tumours for cancerous tumours in his experiments.1928-01-30T00:00:00+0000E Witebsky, 'Disponibilitiit und Spezifitat alkoholloslicher Strukturen von Organen und bosartigen Geschwulsten', Zeitschrift fur Imrnunitaetsforschung, Allergie und Klinische Immunologie' 62 (1929), 35-73. 1929-01-01T00:00:00+0000Edelman was a biologist renowned for his research on antibodies. His research helped determine the chemical structure of antibodies in the early 1960s. It showed that antibodies were made up of two light and heavy chains linked together by disulfide bonds. The breakthrough immediately galvanised feverish activity in all fields of immunological science, paving the way to the development of antibodies for both diagnostics and therapy. Edelman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1972 for his work.1929-07-01T00:00:00+0000Michael Smith shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for a technique that enables researchers to introduce specific mutations into genes and, thus, to the proteins that they encode. He developed the method, known as site-directed mutagenesis, in the 1970s, in collaboration with Fred Sanger and Clyde A Hutchinson III. The advantage of the technique was that it allowed comparisons to be made of different protein molecules and provided a means to deliberately alter a specific gene thereby making it possible to modify the characteristics of an organism. His work opened up a new chapter for studying and treating genetic diseases. Site-directed mutagenesis is a pivotal tool today in genetic and protein research and engineering and at the forefront of the development of monoclonal antibody drugs. 1932-04-26T00:00:00+0000John Marrack, a British chemical pathologist, proposes the biochemical forces which underly the bond between antibodies and antigens. 1934-01-01T00:00:00+0000The American biomedical scientists Michael Heidelberger, Forrest Kendall and Elvin Kabat demonstrate antibodies to be proteins.1935-01-01T00:00:00+0000Klinman was an immunologist who developed the splenic focus assay, a tool that allowed analysis of antibody production derived from single clones of B cells. He used the tool to analyse immune tolerance and immune responses to influenza. In addition he invented the splenic fragment system, a technique that helped generate some of earliest monoclonal antibodies against viral antigens and cancer. 1937-03-23T00:00:00+0000Swedish chemists Theodor Svedberg and Arne Tiselius and the American biomedical scientist Elvin Kabat start using new biochemical techniques, notably ultracentrifugation and electrophoresis, to investigate the structure of antibodies.1939-01-01T00:00:00+0000Tonegawa is a Japanese molecular biologist who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1987 for discovering how the immune system genetically changes the body's antibodies to counter different foreign invaders. Based on experiments he began on mice in 1976, he demonstrated that genes in mature B cells move around, recombine and get deleted to form the diversity of the variable region of antibodies. 1939-09-06T00:00:00+0000Wollstein was a pioneering American paediatric pathologist at a time when women rarely worked in the field of pathology. One of her key contributions was the development of antiserum therapies to treat both paediatric and adult infectious diseases, including a potent polyvalent antiserum to treat meningitis. She was the first woman to ever be elected a member of the American Pediatric Society. In 1904 she joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research where she did important experimental work on polio, pneumonia and other diseases. Her work was important for showing that mumps could be viral in nature.1939-09-30T00:00:00+0000Linus Pauling, an American chemist, puts forward the notion of a template underlying antibody formation, echoing Ehrlich's earlier vision of antibodies and antigens working together like a lock and a key.1940-01-01T00:00:00+0000Albert Coons, an American physician and immunologist, develops the immunofluorescence technique using antibodies coupled with fluorophore. This allowed for microscopic visualisation of antibodies helping to launch the clinical disciplines of diagnostic immunofluorescence microscopy for bacteriology and immunology, immunocytology, and immunohistochemistry in anatomic pathology.1941-01-01T00:00:00+0000Levy is an oncologist who in 1981 made history by successfully using monoclonal antibodies to treat the first patient with lymphoma. This work laid the foundation for the development of Rituxan, the first monoclonal antibody drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer. Levy is now focused on the development of cancer vaccines. 1941-12-06T00:00:00+0000Feldmann is an immunologist who in the early 1980s developed the hypothesis that cytokines like the tumour necrosis factor (TNF) played an important role in the induction of autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Together with Ravinder Maini, he demonstrated that an antibody targeting TNF could block inflammation in the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Feldmann's pioneering work on cytokines also laid the foundation for the successful treatment of other autoimmune disorders like Crohn's disease and anklosing spondylitis. Feldmann left Ukraine with his Jewish parents for France immediately after World War II and then went to Australia at the age of eight. 1944-12-02T00:00:00+0000An oncologist, researcher and venture capitalist, Royston, together with Howard Birndorf and Ted Greene co-founded Hybritech, America's first monoclonal antibody biotechnology company. Hybritech helped kick-start the biotechnology industry in San Diego. Royston also co-founded Idec Pharmaceuticals,the company that developed Rituxan, the first monoclonal antibody drug approved by the FDA for cancer. 1944-11-30T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
8 Oct 1917Rodney R Porter was born in Newton-le-Willows, United KingdomPorterOxford UniversityAntibodies, Monoclonal antibodies
25 Oct 1921Marian E Koshland was born in New Haven, Connecticut, USAKoshland Immunology, Antibodies
1 Apr 1923Brigitte Askonas was born in Vienna, AustriaAskonasViennaMonoclonal antibodies, Immunology
1926First pure antibody preparation madeFeltonHarvard UniversityAntibodies
8 Oct 1927Cesar Milstein was born in Bahia Blanca, ArgentinaMilsteinLaboratory of Molecular BiologyAntibodies, Monoclonal antibodies, Immunology
30 Jan 1928Johannes Fibiger diedFiber Antibodies, Oncology, Clinical trial
1929First molecular marker, antigen, identified on a tumour, laying foundation for use of antibodies to diagnose and treat cancerWitebsky University of HeidelbergImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology, Monoclonal antibodies
1 Jul 1929Gerald M Edelman was born in New York NY, USAEdelmanRockefeller UniversityAntibodies, Immunology
26 Apr 1932Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United KingdomMichael SmithUniversity of British ColumbiaGene editing, Genetics, Monoclonal antibodies
1934 - 1938Antigen-antibody binding hypothesis formulatedMarrackLondon UniversityAntibodies
1935 - 1936Antibodies shown to be proteinsHeidelberger, Kendall, KabatColumbia UniversityAntibodies
23 Mar 1937Norman Klinman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAKlinmanWistar Institute, University of PennsylvaniaAntibodies, Monoclonal antibodies, Immunology
1939Antibodies start to be investigated using quantitative immunochemistrySvedberg, Tiselius, KabatUniversity of UppsalaAntibodies
6 Sep 1939Susumu Tonegawa was born in Nagoya, JapanTonegawaMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyAntibodies, Immunology
30 Sep 1939Martha Wollstein diedWollsteinRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchAntibodies, Infectious diseases
1940Concept of antibody templates proposedPaulingCalifornia Institute of Technology Antibodies
1941Immunofluorescence technique introducedCoonsHarvard UniversityAntibodies
6 Dec 1941Ronald Levy was born in Carmel, California, United StatesLevyStanford UniversityMonoclonal antibodies, Oncology
2 Dec 1944Marc Feldmann was born in Lvov, UkraineFeldmannFranceMonoclonal antibodies
30 Nov 1944Ivor Royston was born in Retford, UKRoystonHybritech, Idec Monoclonal antibodies

8 Oct 1917

Rodney R Porter was born in Newton-le-Willows, United Kingdom

25 Oct 1921

Marian E Koshland was born in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

1 Apr 1923

Brigitte Askonas was born in Vienna, Austria


First pure antibody preparation made

8 Oct 1927

Cesar Milstein was born in Bahia Blanca, Argentina

30 Jan 1928

Johannes Fibiger died


First molecular marker, antigen, identified on a tumour, laying foundation for use of antibodies to diagnose and treat cancer

1 Jul 1929

Gerald M Edelman was born in New York NY, USA

26 Apr 1932

Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United Kingdom

1934 - 1938

Antigen-antibody binding hypothesis formulated

1935 - 1936

Antibodies shown to be proteins

23 Mar 1937

Norman Klinman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Antibodies start to be investigated using quantitative immunochemistry

6 Sep 1939

Susumu Tonegawa was born in Nagoya, Japan

30 Sep 1939

Martha Wollstein died


Concept of antibody templates proposed


Immunofluorescence technique introduced

6 Dec 1941

Ronald Levy was born in Carmel, California, United States

2 Dec 1944

Marc Feldmann was born in Lvov, Ukraine

30 Nov 1944

Ivor Royston was born in Retford, UK

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