Virology: Timeline of key events

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A medical researcher and virologist, Salk pioneered the first safe and effective polio vaccine. Introduced in 1955, Salk's vaccine helped curb one of the most frightening public health diseases in the world. Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial to test his vaccine. His vaccine used killed virus rather than weakened forms of the strain of polio used by Sabin to develop another vaccine against the disease. Salk refused to patent his vaccine and made his technique as widely available as possible. His polio vaccine is now on the World Health Organisation's List of Essential Medicine. 1995-06-23T00:00:00+0000Pirie was a virus physiologist and biochemist. He helped determine that the genetic component of viruses is RNA. Before this viruses were thought to be made up completely of proteins. During World War II he explored the possibility of extracting edible proteins from leaves, research that he carried on into the 1970s. His experiments were directed towards solving the food problem posed by the growing world population. He hoped to replace the inefficient method of feeding animals to secure protein for the diet.1997-03-29T00:00:00+0000Hershey was an American bacteriologist and geneticist. He is best known for a series of experiments with bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) which helped to confirm that DNA rather than proteins carried genetic material. These he performed with Martha Chase in 1952. Hershey shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.' 1997-05-22T00:00:00+0000Fraenkel-Conrat was a German-American biochemist who discovered that RNA is pivotal to the genetic control of viral reproduction and that it is carried in the nucelic core of each virus. This indicated that the viral infectivity resides in the nucleic acid part of the virus. He made this finding in 1955 during experiments with the tobacco mosaic virus. By 1960 he had determined the complete sequence of the 159 amino acids in the virus. His work demonstrated that virus molecules that retain viral life can be reconstituted from its separate protein and RNA.1999-04-10T00:00:00+0000Gross is best known for having shown that viruses can cause cancer in mammals. He first demonstrated this in 1951 by injecting material from leukaemic mice into a strain of newborn mice known to be free of leukamia and isolating the virus. This virus he found could be passed on naturally to successive generations of mice to cause leukaemia. Gross subsequently found that radiation or a chemical could also activate a dormant virus in animals to cause leukaemia. Born to a prominent Jewish family in Poland, Gross was forced to flee to the United States following the Nazi invasion of his home country.1999-07-19T00:00:00+0000The virologists Jeronimo Cello, Aniko Paul, and Eckard Wimmer of the State University of New York, Stony Brook reported constructing an almost perfect replica of the polio virus from published sequences of the virus, and its reverse transcription into viral RNA. Their work was first announced online in 'Chemical synthesis of poliovirus cDNA: Generation of infectious virus in the absence of natural template', Nature, (12 July 2002), doi:10.1038/news020708-17. 2002-07-12T00:00:00+0000Robbins was an American paediatrician and virologist who made his name in 1941 by helping to develop a tissue culture technique to grow the polio virus, one of the most feared diseases at the time. The method involved the growth of the virus using a mixture of human embryonic skin and muscle tissue. It provided an important step towards the development of a vaccine against polio. The tissue culture technique also helped scientists discover new respiratory viruses and paved the way to being able to culture the measles virus to make a vaccine against it. Robbins shared the 1954 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work. 2003-08-04T00:00:00+0000The vaccine RotaTeq took 25 years to develop. It was developed by Stanley Plotkin, H Fred Clark and Paul Offit.2006-01-01T00:00:00+0000Published in 'Nature Medicine', the system deloys glycoprotein D fused with genes from target antigens to increase the immune response. The work was led by Hildegund C.J. Ertl.2008-01-31T00:00:00+0000Weller was an American physician and virologist whose development of tissue-culture methods, with John P. Enders and Frederick C. Robbins, in October 1949 opened up the means to study viral diseases. Their work paved the way to the development of the polio vaccine. The virus was grown in cultures of human foreskin and embryonic tissues. Weller shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954 for the 'discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue.'2008-08-23T00:00:00+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+0000Horwitz was an American chemist who is best known for having synthesised the compound zidovudine (commonly called AZT). Originally Horwitz developed the compound to be an anti-cancer drug in 1964, but it failed to show anticancer activity. Other researchers discovered the drug could prolong the life of AIDS patients. Approved for AIDS in 1987 by the US FDA, AZT transformed AIDS from being a fatal condition into a chronic condition. Horwitz also developed didanosine and stauvidine, antiviral drugs that are used to treat HIV/AIDS.2012-09-06T00:00:00+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+0000Vaccine developed by David Weiner together with collaborators at Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc., GeneOne Life Science, Inc., National Microbiology Laboratory at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the University of Pennsylvania.2016-06-23T00:00:00+0000Born in Lithuania, Klug was a chemist and biophysicist who won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of crystallographic electron microscopy, a method that combines electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to determine the three-dimensional structure of complex biological materials not amenable to conventional x-ray crystallography alone. The technique provided him with the tool to make many discoveries with his team into nucleic acid-protein complexes. He also made a number of discoveries concerning the structure of viruses. His interest in viruses began g after a chance encounter with Rosalind Franklin in late 1953 with whom he collaborated. Klug also discovered zinc-finger proteins, a class of proteins that bind specific DNA sequences. The modular nature of the proteins is now being harnessed to design synthetic proteins for targeted therapies. The son of Jewish parents, Klug migrated with his parents to South Africa where he stayed until he completed his master's degree and then went to England. He was the director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1986-1996) and President of the Royal Society (1995-2000).2018-11-20T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
23 Jun 1995Jonas Salk diedSalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccine
29 Mar 1997Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie diedPirieRothamsted Experimental StationRNA, Virology
22 May 1997Alfred D Hershey diedHersheyCarnegie Institution of WashingtonGenetics, Virology
10 Apr 1999Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat diedFraenkel-Conrat University of California BerkeleyGenetics, Virology
19 Jul 1999Ludwik Gross diedGrossBronx Veterans Administration Medical CentreOncology, Virology
12 Jul 2002Polio: First ever virus synthesised from chemicals aloneCello, Paul, WimmerStony Brook UniversityDNA Sequencing, Virology
4 Aug 2003Frederick Chapman Robbins diedRobbinsWestern Reserve UniversityVirology, Vaccine
2006Vaccine approved for preventing rotavirus, a major kiler of children Plotkin, Clark, OffitWistar InstituteVaccine, Virology
31 Jan 2008New vaccine delivery system unveiled for preventing viral diseasesErtlWistar InstituteVaccines, Virology
23 Aug 2008Thomas H Weller diedWellerChildren's Medical Center BostonVirology
19 Feb 2012Renato Dulbecco diedDulbeccoImperial Cancer Research Fund LaboratoryGenetics, Virology, Oncology
6 Sep 2012Jerome P Horwitz diedHorwitzKarmanos InstituteVirology, Biochemistry
13 Jun 2016Beverly Griffin diedGriffinImperial CollegeDNA sequencing, genetics, oncology, virology
23 Jun 2016FDA approved first clinical trial for zika virus vaccineWeinerWistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, GeneOne Life Science, Public Health Agency of CanadaVaccines, Virology
20 Nov 2018Aaron Klug diedKlugBirkbeck College, Laboratory of Molecular BiologyX ray crystallography, RNA, Zinc fingers, Virology

23 Jun 1995

Jonas Salk died

29 Mar 1997

Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie died

22 May 1997

Alfred D Hershey died

10 Apr 1999

Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat died

19 Jul 1999

Ludwik Gross died

12 Jul 2002

Polio: First ever virus synthesised from chemicals alone

4 Aug 2003

Frederick Chapman Robbins died

2006

Vaccine approved for preventing rotavirus, a major kiler of children

31 Jan 2008

New vaccine delivery system unveiled for preventing viral diseases

23 Aug 2008

Thomas H Weller died

19 Feb 2012

Renato Dulbecco died

6 Sep 2012

Jerome P Horwitz died

13 Jun 2016

Beverly Griffin died

23 Jun 2016

FDA approved first clinical trial for zika virus vaccine

20 Nov 2018

Aaron Klug died