Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Sends shockwaves through RNAi drug development community.2010-11-01T00:00:00+0000Fenn shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the development of mass spectrometric (MS) methods to analyse proteins and other large biological molecules. In the late 1980s he developed a technique, known as electrospray ionisation, which involves the injection of a liquid solution of the sample to be analysed into an electric field. This disperses the sample into a spray of charged droplets. Once the droplets shrink, through evaporation on the electric field, it is possible to separate individual molecules the droplets thereby providing free ions for analysis by MS. Fenn's technique is highly versatile and and provides a quick means to get accurate information about the mass of a large molecule, even when it is in a mixture with other molecules. It is used in the development of pharmaceuticals and to analyse harmful substances in food. 2010-12-10T00:00:00+00002011-01-01T00:00:00+00002011-01-01T00:00:00+0000Campath-1H shown to help lower the amount of immunosuppressant drugs taken by organ transplant patients. 2011-01-01T00:00:00+0000Gene therapy directed at liver cells2011-01-01T00:00:00+00002011-01-01T00:00:00+0000The policy was initiated by Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England and director of the National Institute of Medical research. Under the new policy medical schools could only obtain research funding if they had a 'silver' Athena SWAN award. This award is given based on an institution demonstrating equality between staff, in particular in the area of gender. 2011-01-01T00:00:00+00002011-01-01T00:00:00+0000Zhang, F, Cong, L, Lodato, Kosuri, S, Church, G, Arlotta, P, 'Efficient construction of sequence-specific TAL effectors for modulating mammalian transcription', Nature Biotechnology, 29 (2011), 149–53. 2011-01-19T00:00:00+0000Martin JHinek and Michael Hauser also joined the investigation. 2011-03-01T00:00:00+0000Allers, K, Hutter, G, Hofmann, J, Loddenkemper, C, Rieger, K, Thiel, E, et al,'Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR5?32/?32 stem cell transplantation', Blood, 117/10, (2011): 2791–99.2011-03-10T00:00:00+0000The drug was approved for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma. The drug uses a monoclonal that blocks CTLA-4 so as to activate an immune response against the cancer.2011-03-25T00:00:00+0000Blumberg was an American physician and geneticist who won the Nobel Prize in 1976 for his discovery of a surface antigen for the hepatitis B virus. He found the antigen while conducting work on blood samples from different populations from around the world to understand genetic variations in susceptibility to disease. The antigen was first spotted testing a blood sample from a haemophiliac patient in New York against blood taken from a visiting Korean physician. Blumberg's discovery paved the way to the development of the first screen test for hepatitis B to prevent its spread in blood donations. His research also helped in the creation of the first vaccine against the disease, which to this day is the gold standard in the management of the disease.2011-04-05T00:00:00+0000US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted a lower-court injunction, opening the way to resume federal funding of research on embryonic stem cells.2011-04-29T00:00:00+0000Yalow was an American medical physicist who made her name by helping to develop the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique. RIA uses two reagents. One is a radioisotope atom bound to a molecule of the target substance and the other is an antibody that will bind to the target substance when the two are in contact. Measurements are taken of the initial radioactivity of the mixture which is then added to a measured quantity of fluid, such as blood, that contains low concentrations of an unknown target substance. The test takes advantage of the fact that antibodies prefer to attach to non-radioactive molecules. Measurements are taken of the reduction in radioactivity of the antibody reagent to calculate the concentration of the target substance. The RIA method is now an important component in diagnostic tests, being used to measure the concentration of hormones, vitamins, viruses, enzymes, drugs and other substances. The technique transformed the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes and other hormonal problems related to growth, thyroid function and fertility. It is used to test for phenylketonuria in newborn babies, a rare inherited disorder that if left untreated can lead to intellectual disability, seizures, behavioral problems and mental disorder. In 1977 Yalow became the second woman in history to win the Nobel Prize. It was awarded on the basis of her RIA work. 2011-05-30T00:00:00+0000The first patient to receive the therapy was Sue Freeman, a 78 year old, diagnosed with AMD. The study, approved by the FDA, was designed to test the treatment's safety, not its effectiveness. The therapy involved injecting retinal cells derived from embryonic stem cells into the eyes of patients suffering from dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, leading causes of blindness in the elderly and children, respectively. 2011-07-14T00:00:00+0000The technique replaces genes in targeted organs without replacing cells from the body. The method uses zinc-finger nucleases. Li, H, Haurigot, V, Doyon, Y, Li, T, et al, 'In vivo genome editing restores haemostasis in a mouse model of hemophilia', Nature, 473 (2011), 217-21.2011-07-14T00:00:00+0000Merck gained facility from Sima Therapeutics. Decision driven by company's need to cut costs.2011-07-29T00:00:00+0000Benacerraf was an immunologist who, based on experiments with guinea pigs in the 1960s, provided the pathway to understand how T lymphocytes recognise structures on the cell surface of foreign substances that invade the body. He showed that immune responses are controlled by genes that exist in a certain area on a certain chromosome. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1980 for his discoveries of genes that regulate immune responses and the role some of these genes play in autoimmune disorders. Born in Venezuaela and brought up in Paris, Bernaceraf and his parents were forced to move to United States in 1940 because of their Jewish heritage. 2011-08-02T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
Nov 2010Disappointment follows Roche's decision to pull out of RNAi therapeutics  RNA interference
10 Dec 2010John B Fenn diedFennVirginia Commonwealth University, Yale UniversityAnalytical chemistry
2011Isolation of multipotent human blood stem cells capable of forming all cells in the blood system   Stem cells
Jan 2011DNA sequencing proves useful to documenting the rapid evolution of Streptococcus penumoniae in response to the application of vaccines Wellcome Trust Sanger InstituteDNA Sequencing
2011Positive results from trials using Campath-1H for organ transplant patientsWaldmann, CalneCambridge UniversityCampath
2011Gene therapy reduces symptoms in six patients with haemophilia B  Gene therapy
2011Classification of the CRISPR-Cas system is proposed  CRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing
2011Policy implemented insisting UK medical schools demonstrate good employment practices for women to be short-listed for funding from National Institute for Health ResearchDavies  
2011Davies appointed permanent Chief Medicial Officer of EnglandDavies  
19 Jan 2011US scientists publish a technique for genetically engineering transcription activator-like effectors customised to recognise specific DNA-binding sites which they show is an effective tool for editing mammalian genomesZhang, Cong, Lodato, Kosuri, Church, ArlottaHarvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Gene editing, TALENs
Mar 2011Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna joined forces to investigate Cas9 enzymeDoudna, Charpentier, Hinek, HauserUniversity of California Berkeley, Umea UniversityCRISPR-Cas9
10 Mar 2011Patient suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia is cured of HIV-1 after receiving bone marrow stem cells transplanted from donor with mutated CCR5 gene. This awakens interest in developing HIV treatment that renders a patient's cells resistant to HIV-1Allers, Hutter, Hofmann, Loddenkemper, RiegerCharite-University Medicine BerlinGene therapy, Gene editing, Stem cells
25 Mar 2011First immune checkpoint inhibitor drug targeting CTLA4 (ipilimumab, Yervoy®), approved by the FDAAllisonMedarex, University of California BerkleyImmune checkpoint inhibitors, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology, Monoclonal antibodies
5 Apr 2011Baruch S. Blumberg diedblumbergFox Chase Cancer Center, University of PennsylvaniaVaccines
Apr 2011US funding of embryonic stem cell research permitted  Stem cells
30 May 2011Rosalyn Yalow diedYalowVeterans Administration HospitalDiagnostics, Endocrinology
14 Jul 2011First safety trial launched in humans to test embryonic stem cell therapy to treat blinding diseasesSchwartzUniversity of California Los AngelesStem cells
14 Jul 2011Gene repair kit used successfully to treat blood-clotting disorder haemophilia in miceLi, Haurigot, Doyon, HighChildren's Hospital Philadelphia, Sangamo Biosciences, University of PhiladelphiaGene therapy, Gene editing, Zinc fingers
Jul 2011Merck closes down RNAi research facility  RNA interference
2 Aug 2011Baruj Benacerraf diedBenacerrafHarvard Medical SchoolImmunology

Nov 2010

Disappointment follows Roche's decision to pull out of RNAi therapeutics

10 Dec 2010

John B Fenn died

2011

Isolation of multipotent human blood stem cells capable of forming all cells in the blood system

Jan 2011

DNA sequencing proves useful to documenting the rapid evolution of Streptococcus penumoniae in response to the application of vaccines

2011

Positive results from trials using Campath-1H for organ transplant patients

2011

Gene therapy reduces symptoms in six patients with haemophilia B

2011

Classification of the CRISPR-Cas system is proposed

2011

Policy implemented insisting UK medical schools demonstrate good employment practices for women to be short-listed for funding from National Institute for Health Research

2011

Davies appointed permanent Chief Medicial Officer of England

19 Jan 2011

US scientists publish a technique for genetically engineering transcription activator-like effectors customised to recognise specific DNA-binding sites which they show is an effective tool for editing mammalian genomes

Mar 2011

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna joined forces to investigate Cas9 enzyme

10 Mar 2011

Patient suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia is cured of HIV-1 after receiving bone marrow stem cells transplanted from donor with mutated CCR5 gene. This awakens interest in developing HIV treatment that renders a patient's cells resistant to HIV-1

25 Mar 2011

First immune checkpoint inhibitor drug targeting CTLA4 (ipilimumab, Yervoy®), approved by the FDA

5 Apr 2011

Baruch S. Blumberg died

Apr 2011

US funding of embryonic stem cell research permitted

30 May 2011

Rosalyn Yalow died

14 Jul 2011

First safety trial launched in humans to test embryonic stem cell therapy to treat blinding diseases

14 Jul 2011

Gene repair kit used successfully to treat blood-clotting disorder haemophilia in mice

Jul 2011

Merck closes down RNAi research facility

2 Aug 2011

Baruj Benacerraf died