Genetics: Timeline of key events

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Nirenberg was a biochemist and geneticist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Medicine for interpreting the genetic code and its function of protein synthesis. The Prize was given on the back of some experiments Nirenberg conducted in 1960 and 1961 which identified particular codons (3 chemical units of DNA) that specified each of the 20 amino acids that make up protein molecules.2010-01-15T00:00:00+0000Khorana was an Indian chemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the elucidation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. He helped demonstrate that the chemical composition and function of a new cell is determined by four nucleotides in DNA and that the nucleotide code is transmitted in groups of three, called codons, and these codons instruct the cell to start and stop the production of proteins. His work also laid the foundation for the development of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique that makes it possible to make billions of copies of small fragments of DNA. 2011-11-09T00:00:00+0000Zinder was an American biologist who discovered how hereditary information is transferred from one organism to another. The process is known as genetic transduction. Carrying out experiments with the bacteria species Salmonella, Zinder discovered that bacteriophages, a type of virus, carry genes from one bacterium to another. He did the work with Joshua Lederberg, his doctoral supervisor. 2012-02-03T00:00:00+0000Dulbecco was an Italian-American virologist who in the 1950s helped to pioneer the growth of animal viruses in culture and work out how certain viruses cause tumours in the cells they infect. He and his colleagues demonstrated that the virus inserted DNA into the DNA of the host cell and this cell transformed into a cancer cell which reproduced the viral DNA along with its own thereby producing more cancer cell. This work not only aided better understanding of how viruses cause cancer, but also HIV. Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his 'discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell.' 2012-02-19T00:00:00+00002012-09-28T00:00:00+0000Ruddle helped pioneer human gene mapping and established many of the techniques and a framework for setting up the Human Genome Project. He also generated, with Jon W. Gordon and George Scango the first successful transgenic mouse. This heralded the development of genetically modified animals as research models to investigate the function of genes and genetic cause of disease. Ruddle also discovered, with William McGinnis, the first human homeobox genes, important regulators of gene development. 2013-03-10T00:00:00+00002015-04-01T00:00:00+0000K.B. Chiappinelli, P.L. Strissel, A. Desrichard, et al, 'Inhibiting DNA methylation causes an interferon response in cancer via dsRNA including endogenous retroviruses', Cell, 162 (2015), 974-86.2015-08-27T00:00:00+0000Griffin was a leading expert on viruses that cause cancer. She was the first woman appointed to Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital. In 1980 she completed the sequence of the poliovirus, the longest piece of eukaryotic DNA to be sequenced at that time. She devoted her life to understanding the Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of Burkitt's Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. 2016-06-13T00:00:00+0000Smithies was a British-born American geneticist and physical biochemist. He first made his mark in 1955 through his invention of starch gel electrophoresis, a technique used to study human protein variation. Later on, in the 1980s he developed a method for targeted gene replacement in mice, now known as gene targeting, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007. His method paved the way to the creation of thousands of lines of mice carrying desired genetic mutations. Such mice are now widely used to investigate the role of many different genes in human health and disease. 2017-01-10T00:00:00+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+0000Sulston was a biologist. He 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+0000A team of scientists managed to engineer mice to express Cas9 and a DNA sequence needed for the gene drive, called a cassette, which encoded a guide RNA that targets a sequence in the TYR gene which affects the mouse coat colour. This provided a means of tracking the frequency of the genetic modification over several generations of mice. The work was published in HA Grunwald et al. 'Super-Mendelian inheritance mediated by CRISPR–Cas9 in the female mouse germline', Nature, January 23, 2019.2019-01-23T00:00:00+0000Born in South Africa, Brenner was a geneticist and biologist who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine for helping to discover how genes regulate tissue and organ development. Using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism, Brenner demonstrated that triplets of nucleotides within RNA encode the individual amino acids of a protein, and signals when protein manufacture should stop. 2019-04-05T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
15 Jan 2010Marshall W Nirenberg diedNirenbergNational Institutes of HealthGenetics
9 Nov 2011Har Gobind Khorana diedKhoranaUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyDNA, Genetics, PCR
3 Feb 2012Norton David Zinder diedZinderRockefeller UniversityGenetics
19 Feb 2012Renato Dulbecco diedDulbeccoImperial Cancer Research Fund LaboratoryGenetics, Virology, Oncology
2012European approval of decatabine (Dacogen) for treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia  Epigenetics, Oncology
10 Mar 2013Frank Ruddle died in New Haven, ConnecticutRuddleYale UniversityGenetics, Transgenic animals, Cloning
Apr 2015Chinese regulatory authorities approved Chidamide, a histone deactylase inhibitor, for peripheral T cell lymphoma  Epigenetics, Oncology
27 Aug 2015Experiments with mice showed that azacytidine treatment enhanced the responsiveness of tumors to anti–CTLA-4 therapy  Cancer immunotherapy, Epigenetics, Immune checkpoint inhibitors, Oncology
13 Jun 2016Beverly Griffin diedGriffinImperial CollegeDNA sequencing, genetics, oncology, virology
10 Jan 2017Oliver Smithies diedSmithiesUniversity of Washington, University of North CarolinaGenetics, Transgenic animals
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
9 Mar 2018John E Sulson diedSulstonLaboratory of Molecular Biology, Sanger InstituteCell, Genetics, DNA sequencing
23 Jan 2019CRISPR-Cas9 used to control genetic inheritance in miceGrunwald, Gntz, Poplawski, Xu, Bier, CooperUniversity of California San DiegoCRISPR-Cas9, Genetics, Transgenic animals
5 Apr 2019Sydney Brenner diedBrennerLaboratory of Molecular BiologyGenetics

15 Jan 2010

Marshall W Nirenberg died

9 Nov 2011

Har Gobind Khorana died

3 Feb 2012

Norton David Zinder died

19 Feb 2012

Renato Dulbecco died


European approval of decatabine (Dacogen) for treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia

10 Mar 2013

Frank Ruddle died in New Haven, Connecticut

Apr 2015

Chinese regulatory authorities approved Chidamide, a histone deactylase inhibitor, for peripheral T cell lymphoma

27 Aug 2015

Experiments with mice showed that azacytidine treatment enhanced the responsiveness of tumors to anti–CTLA-4 therapy

13 Jun 2016

Beverly Griffin died

10 Jan 2017

Oliver Smithies died

15 Nov 2017

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

9 Mar 2018

John E Sulson died

23 Jan 2019

CRISPR-Cas9 used to control genetic inheritance in mice

5 Apr 2019

Sydney Brenner died