A Brief History of Biotechnology

An appendix to the Timeline of Modern Science

by piero scaruffi | Contact


1944: Oswald Avery discovers genes are made of DNA
1953: Francis Crick and James Watson discover the double helix of DNA
1961: Marshall Nirenberg and Heinrich Matthaei discover how the 4-letter genetic code gets translated into the 20-letter language of proteins
1965: Robert Holley discovers transfer RNA
1971: First Biotech startups (e.g. Cetus)
1973: Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer invent a practical technique to produce recombinant DNA
1974: Waclaw Szybalski coins the term "synthetic biology"
1975: Paul Berg organizes the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA
  • 1976: Genentech is founded
    1977: Genentech clone a protein using a synthetic recombinant gene
    1977: Fred Sanger invents a method for "sequencing" DNA molecules e.
    1980: The Supreme Court of the USA rules that life forms can be patente
  • 1980: Genentech's IPO, first biotech IPO
    1982: The first genetically produced medication, humulin, is approved for sale (Eli Lilly + Genentech)
    1983: Kary Mullis invents the "polymerase chain reaction"
  • 1986: Leroy Hood invents a way to automate gene sequencing
  • 1986: Mario Capecchi performs gene editing on a mouse
  • 1990: William French Anderson's gene therapy
    1992: Calgene creates the first Genetically Manufactured Food (GMF), the "Flavr Savr" tomato
    1993: Cynthia Kenyon discovers that a single-gene mutation can double the lifespan of the roundworm
  • 1994: FlavrSavr Tomato
  • 1994: Srinivasan Chandrasegaran invents ZFN to edit genomes
    1995: Robert Fleischmann sequences the genome of a free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus Influenzae
    1996: Ian Wilmut clones "Dolly" the sheep
    1998: James Thomson and Jeffrey Jones isolate human embryonic stem cells
    2002: Eckard Wimmer creates the first synthetic virus
  • 2003: The Human Genome Project is completed
    2003: The MIT establishes a Registry of Standard Biological Parts
    2003: China approves a gene-therapy product, Gendicine
  • 2004: The first international conference on Synthetic Biology is held at the MIT
    2005: The genomes of the chimpanzee and of rice are published
  • 2005: Jay Keasling (UC Berkeley) artificially produces artemisinin acid
  • 2005: Drew Endy's "Foundations for Engineering Biology"
  • 2007: Personal genomics (Knome, 23andMe)
  • 2007: Shinya Yamanaka converts adult human cells into pluripotent stem cells.
  • 2010: Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith (Maryland) reprogram a bacterium's DNA
  • 2010: Cheap printers for living beings (OpenPCR, Cambrian Genomics)
  • 2011: The TALEN technique for genome editing (Dan Voytas, Adam Bogdanove)
    2012: Markus Covert producesthe first complete computer model of a free-living organism, the bacterium Mycoplasma Genitalium
  • 2012: Markus Covert (Stanford) simulates an entire living organism in software
  • 2012: Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley ) and Emmanuelle Charpentier (Sweden) develop the CRISPR-cas9 technique for genome editing
    2015: Chinese Scientists genetically modify human embryos
    2015: The cost of a personal genetic test-kit is $100, down from $3 billion in 2003
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