Genetics: Timeline of key events

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Drug made by Merck & Co2006-10-06T00:00:00+0000Lederberg is best known for having discovered the lambda phage, an indispensable tool for studying gene regulation and genetic recombination. She also invented the replica plating technique which is pivotal to tracking antibiotic resistance. 2006-11-11T00:00:00+0000Kornberg was an American biochemist renowned for his research on enzymes which create DNA. In 1956 he and his team isolated the first enzyme known to be involved in the replication of DNA. It would be called DNA polymerase I. For this work Kornberg shared the 1959 Nobel Prize for Medicine. The Prize was given for the discovery of the 'mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.'2007-10-26T00:00:00+0000The son of Jewish Polish immigrants, Benzer was an American molecular biologist who proved that genetic mutations were caused by changes in the DNA sequence. This was based on some experiments he pursued with mutant T4 bacteriophages, known as r mutants. In 1952 he spotted abnormal behaviour in one mutant strain and a year later devised a technique to measure the recombination frequency between different r mutant strains to map the substructure of a single gene. His work laid the path to determining the detailed structure of viral genes. Benzer also coined the term cistron to denote functional subunits of genes. Together with Ronald Konopka, his student, Benzer also discovered the first gene to control an organism's sense of time, in 1971. In later he worked on genes and the process of ageing in fruit flies.2007-11-30T00:00:00+0000Achieved by Emmanuel Skordalakes2008-01-01T00:00:00+0000Lederberg was an American geneticist who helped discover the mechanism of genetic recombination in bacteria. This was based on some experiments he performed with Edward Tatum in 1946 which involved mixing two different strains of bacteria. Their experiments also demonstrated for the first time that bacteria reproduced sexually, rather than by cells splitting in two, thereby proving that bacterial genetic systems were similar to those of multicelluar organisms. Later on, in 1952, working with Norton Zinder, Lederberg found that certain bacteriophages (viruses that affect bacteria) could carry a bacterial gene from one bacterium to another. In 1958 Lederberg shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organisation of the genetic material of bacteria.' 2008-02-02T00:00:00+00002009-11-01T00:00:00+0000Nirenberg 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+0000Lindquist was an American molecular biologist whose work on yeast proteins opened up new avenues for understanding gene functioning and degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as well for drug resistance, cancer and prion biology. Most of her career was devoted to looking at how proteins change shape during cell division to carry out genetic functions. She demonstrated that protein-folding errors can occur in all species and that the biological changes this can cause can be passed from one offspring to the next without the need for RNA or DNA. Linquist was the first demale director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT.2016-10-27T00:00:00+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 facilitated 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+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
6 Oct 2006FDA approved first histone deacetylase inhibitor, Vorinostat (Zolinza), for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma  Epigenetics, Oncology
11 Nov 2006Esther Lederberg diedEsther LederbergWisconsin UniversityGenetics, Antimicrobial resistance, Bacteriophages, Lambda phage
26 Oct 2007Arthur Kornberg diedKornbergStanford UniversityGenetics, DNA, RNA
30 Nov 2007Seymour Benzer diedBenzerPurdue University, California Institute of TechnologyDNA, genetics
2008Structure of telomerase, an enzyme that conserves the ends of chomosomes, was decoded Wistar InstituteDNA, genetics
2 Feb 2008Joshua Lederberg diedJoshua LederbergUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Plasmids, Recombinant DNA
Nov 2009FDA approved second histone deactylase inhibitor, Romidepsin (Istodax), for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma   Epigenetics, Oncology
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
27 Oct 2016Susan Lindquist diedLinquistMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Proteomics
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

6 Oct 2006

FDA approved first histone deacetylase inhibitor, Vorinostat (Zolinza), for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

11 Nov 2006

Esther Lederberg died

26 Oct 2007

Arthur Kornberg died

30 Nov 2007

Seymour Benzer died


Structure of telomerase, an enzyme that conserves the ends of chomosomes, was decoded

2 Feb 2008

Joshua Lederberg died

Nov 2009

FDA approved second histone deactylase inhibitor, Romidepsin (Istodax), for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

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

27 Oct 2016

Susan Lindquist 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

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