A Timeline of Biotech and Synthetic Biology

by piero scaruffi | (contact)

An appendix to the chapter on Biotech
All of these events are explained in my book "Intelligence is not Artificial".

Slide presentation "Biotech"

See also: A Timeline of Modern Science

TM, ®, Copyright © 2017 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.



1944: Oswald Avery discovers that 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
1964: Harvey Nathanson at Westinghouse makes the first MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system)
1965: Robert Holley discovers transfer RNA
1969: Jon Beckwith isolates a gene
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
1979: Stephen Terry at Stanford builds the first “lab-on-a-chip"
1980: The Supreme Court of the USA rules that life forms can be patente
1980: Janet Rossant creates a chimera combining two mice species
1980: Genentech's IPO, first biotech IPO
1981: Martin Evans identifies embryonic stem cells (in mice)
1982: The first genetically produced medication, humulin, is approved for sale (Eli Lilly + Genentech)
1983: Kary Mullis invents the "polymerase chain reaction"
1983: Richard Feynman’s lecture "Infinitesimal Machinery“
1985: Oliver Smithies discovers how to insert DNA sequences into the human chromosome
1986: Leroy Hood invents a way to automate gene sequencing
1986: Mario Capecchi performs gene editing on a mouse
1989: Bert Vogelstein discovers that the gene p53 acts as a turmor suppressor
1990: William French Anderson's gene therapy
1990: First baby born via PGD (Alan Handyside’s lab)
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: Maria Jasin's homing endonucleases for genome editing
1995: Robert Fleischmann sequences the genome of a free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus Influenzae
1996: Ian Wilmut clones "Dolly" the sheep
1996: Srinivasan Chandrasegaran's ZFN method for genome editing
1997: DARPA’s Microflumes program to fund research in microfluidics
1997: Dennis Lo detects fetal DNA in the plasma of a pregnant mother (prenatal genetic diagnosis)
1997: John Dick and Dominique Bonnet discover that leukemia is caused by tumor stem cells
1998: James Thomson and John Gearhart isolate human embryonic stem cells and grow them in the lab
1999: Agilent introduces the first commercial "lab-on-a-chip" product
2000: George Davey Smith introduces Mendelian randomization
2001: Dana Carroll's ZFN-based genome editing in cells
2002: Wilhelm Ansorge at EMBL develops the amicroarray with the whole human genome
2002: Eckard Wimmer creates the first synthetic virus
2003: Dario Campana's method to make CAR-T cells
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
2004: First commercial microarrays of the whole human genome (Affymetrix, Agilent, Applied Biosystems, Illumina, NimbleGen)
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”
2005: Fyodor Urnov uses ZFN to edit human DNA
2007: Personal genomics (Knome, 23andMe)
2007: Shinya Yamanaka converts adult human cells into pluripotent stem cells.
2008: The TALEN technique for genome editing (Dan Voytas and Feng Zhang)
2009: Jean Bennett's gene therapy restores vision in Corey Haas
2010: Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith (Maryland) reprogram a bacterium's DNA
2010: Geron carries out the first stem-cell therapy on a human
2010: Cheap printers for living beings (OpenPCR, Cambrian Genomics)
2010: Carl June's CAR-T therapy
2011: The Voytas/Bogdanove TALEN kit
2012: Cloud-based biotech (Transcriptic)
2012: Markus Covert (Stanford) simulates an entire living organism in software
2012: Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley), Emmanuelle Charpentier (Sweden) and Feng Zhang (Broad Inst) develop the CRISPR-cas9 technique for genome editing
2013: Shoukhrat Mitalipov creates human embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos
2014: the first gene-therapy treatment approved in the West, Glybera by UniQure
2014: Jef Boeke synthesizes a chromosome (in yeast)
2014: Floyd Romesberg expands life's genetic alphabet with two new bases in a living bacterium
2014: Scientists at Kunming University in China use CRISPR to edit the germ-line of monkeys
2015: The cost of a personal genetic test-kit is $100, down from $3 billion in 2003
2015: First Summit on Human Gene Editing
2015: Cellectis cures leukaemia in Layla Richards using TALENS editing
2015: Katsuhiko Hayashi's in vitro gametogenesis (IVG)
2016: David Liu’s base editing
2017: First gene therapy for cancer treatment approved in the USA, Kymriah
2017: Michele DeLuca combines stem-cell techniques with gene therapy to create artificial skin to cure a skin disease
2017: Shoukhrat Mitalipov repairs a genetic mutation in human embryos that causes a heart disease
  • 2018: Jiankui He uses CRISPR to modify human embryos before they are transferred into women’s uteruses, and claims the first gene-edited babies
  • 2019: David Liu's & Andrew Anzalone's prime editing
  • 2019: CRISPR Therapeutics' gene-editing cure for sickle-cell disease CTX001
    A Timeline of mRNA Medicine
    1961: Sydney Brenner, Francois Jacob and Matthew Meselson determine the function of messenger RNA
    1965: Alec Bangham discovers liposomes
    1984: Paul Krieg and Doug Melton synthesize mRNA in a lab (Harvard)
    1987: Robert Malone discovers a method to deliver mRNA to human cells so that they begin producing proteins (Salk Institute)
    1990: Katalin Kariko proposes using mRNA as an alternative to DNA-based gene therapy (University of Pennsylvania)
    1992: Gustav Jirikowski and others test the first mRNA-based gene therapy on rats (Scripps Institute)
    1995: Robert Conry designes the first mRNA vaccine (University of Alabama)
    1997: Eli Gilboa of Duke University founds Merix Bioscience, the first mRNA therapeutics company
    2005: Katalin Kariko' and Drew Weissman publish their research on how to make mRNA vaccines
    2008: Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci found BioNTech
    2010: Derrick Rossi (Harvard) discovers a method to make mRNA-based gene therapy and founds Moderna
    2010: Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci publish the results of their research on mRNA-based cancer vaccines
    2012: Andrew Geall's non-viral technique for making mRNA-based drugs
    2017: BioNtech's mRNA cancer vaccine
    2020: Moderna's and BioNtech's covid19 vaccines based on mRNA
    Trivia: a timeline of Mutagenesis
    1926: Hermann Muller demonstrates that exposure to x-rays caused genetic mutations in the genome of fruit flies
    1920s: Lewis Stadler studies corn mutations caused by X-rays and ultraviolet rays
    Radiation can speed up evolution
    1949 "atomic garden" at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Rhode Island: vegetables exposed to radioactive isotopes like cobalt-60 and caesium-137
    1950s: Vogue of "atomic" plants and seeds
    Atomic gardens created 2,700 new varieties of plants, including most sweetcorn varieties
    Most of today’s mint oil comes from a disease-resistance peppermint plant developed in 1971 at the Brookhaven National Laboratory
    Radiation breeding is responsible for many of the gorgeous orchid, tulip and rose varieties
    1958: Edward Knipling's “sterile insect” technique (sterilizing pupae with radiations)
    Genetic Engineering
    Original technique: transferring genes from one animal species to another species
    1974 Rudolf Jaenisch and Beatrice Mintz inject viral DNA into the DNA of early mouse embryos and produced the first transgenic mammals
    1989 AquAdvantage salmon by Memorial University in Newfoundland in Canada (approved for consumption in Canada in 2016)
    1999 fluorescent fish GloFish by National University of Singapore
    2000 Nexia Biotechnologies creates goats “augmented” with spider genes so that they produce milk equivalent to spider silk
    2014 Valentino Gantz and Ethan Bier experiment gene drive on fruit flies
    2015 Recombinetics uses TALEN to create two calves whose offspring should never have horns again
    2015 Andrea Crisanti experiments gene drive on mosquitoes
    2018 Kimberly Cooper engineers the first gene drive in a mammal (in mice)
    Cloning
    Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal (July 1996 in Britain),
    cloning of cattle in Wisconsin (just a few months later in 1997),
    cloning cats (the Carbon Copy cat of 2001 in Texas)
    cloning of horses (“Prometea” in 2003 in Italy)
    cloning of dogs (“Snuppy” in 2005 in South Korea)
    A Timeline of CRISPR's discovery
    • 1993: Francisco Mojica (Spain) describes CRISPR
    • 2005: Alexander Bolotin (France) discovers Cas9
    • 2006: Eugene Koonin (NIH) shows the DNA-repair value of Cas proteins
    • 2007: Philippe Horvath at Danisco (France) prove that CRISPR is an adaptive immune system
    • 2008: Paper by John van der Oost (Netherlands)
    • Dec 2008: Luciano Marraffini and Erik Sontheimer (Chicago) show that CRISPR can serve as a general-purpose genome-editing
    • 2010: Paper by Sylvain Moineau (Canada): Cas9 cleaves target DNA
    • 2011: Paper by Virginijus Siksnys (Lithuania)
    • 2012: Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley) and Emmanuelle Charpentier (Sweden) describe a CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut DNA in test tube
    • 2012: Feng Zhang and Luciano Marraffini (Broad Inst) invent the first CRISPR system to edit human cells
    • Apr 2013: Chad Cowan and Kiran Musunuru (Harvard) prove that CRISPR is superior to existing genome-editing tools

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    TM, ®, Copyright © 2017 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.