The role of women in biotechnology

Women in biotechnology: timeline of key discoveries

A timeline of key biomedical discoveries in which women played a pivotal role.

Curie's idea laid the foundation for disproving the traditional belief that atoms were indivisible. She made the hypothesis after discovering that the activity of uranium compounds depend on the quantity of uranium present1897-01-01T00:00:00+00001897-01-01T00:00:00+00001898-01-01T00:00:00+0000Curie used the term to describe the behaviour of uranium and thorium. 1898-04-01T00:00:00+0000Studying the mealworm, Stevens found that males made reproductive cells with both X and Y chromosomes whereas the females made only those with X. NM Stevens, 'Studies in spermatogenesis with special reference to the accessory chromosome', Studies in Sermatogenesis (Washington, DC, 1905), 1-32. 1905-01-01T00:00:00+00001911-01-01T00:00:00+0000Known as 'Petits Curies' the technology helped locate fractures, bullets and shrapnel in wounded soldiers. 1914-01-01T00:00:00+0000The Cori's work helped identify the cyclical process that muscle cells use to make and store energy. Their insights into the process of sugar metabolism opened up new understandings of diabetes and the means to treat it. 1929-01-01T00:00:00+0000June Almeida was a major pioneer of electron microscopy which helped transform knowledge about virology. She is best known for taking the first electron micrograph of the rubella virus and a human coronavirus. Her work also helped uncover the structure of the hepatitis B virus which paved the way to developing a vaccine against hepatitis B. She also published some of the first high quality images of HIV. 1930-10-05T00:00:00+0000This was based on their experiments with the variegated colour pattern of maize kernels which showed that some genetic elements on the chromosome are capable of movement. They published their results in 'A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-Over in Zea Mays',PNAS, 7/8 (1931), 492-97. 1931-08-01T00:00:00+00001934-01-01T00:00:00+0000The observation was reported by Gregory Pincus and Barbara Saunders, 'The comparative behavior of mammalian eggs in vivo and in vitro: VI. The maturation of human ovarian ova', Anat. Rec., 75 (1939), 537–45.1939-01-01T00:00:00+0000The drug was produced from a rabbit anti-serum. It was the first effective treatment. Alexander continued to refine the treatment through the early 1940s. Her work led to a significant reduction in infant mortality from the disease, reducing the mortality rate to 20%. 'Response to antiserums in meningococcic infections of human beings and mice,' American Journal of Diseases of Children, 58/4 (1939), 746-52.1939-10-01T00:00:00+0000The team that undertook the work included Martin Dawson, the clinician and co-ordinator of the project, Glady Hobby who handled the microbiology work and Karl Meyer who did the chemical extraction work. The work was reported in GL Hobby, MH Dawson, et al, 'Effect of the rate of growth of bacteria on action of penicillin', Experimental Biology and Medicine, 56/2 (June 1 1944), 181-4.1940-09-01T00:00:00+0000Witkin discovered the radiation resistance after exposing E coli stain B bacteria to high doses of UV light. She subsequently worked out that the resistance was due to a particular genetic mutation in the bacteria strain which inhibited cell division. Witkin did the work under the guidance of Milislav Demerec at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She published her findings in EM Witkin, 'A case of inherited resistance to radiation in bacteria', Genetics, 31 (1946) 236; EM Witkin, 'Inherited Differences in Sensitivity to Radiation in Escherichia Coli', PNAS USA, 32/3 (1946), 59–68. Witkin's work laid the foundation for showing that cell division is inhibited when DNA is damaged and was the first demonstration of a cell checkpoint. 1944-01-01T00:00:00+0000The work was undertaken by Dorothy Hodgkin and CH (Harry) Carlise. It was published in CH Carlisle, D Crowfoot, 'The Crystal Structure of Cholesteryl Iodide'. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 184/996 (1945, 64. 1945-01-01T00:00:00+0000This was worked out by Dorothy Hodgkin and colleagues. Contrary to scientific opinion, the team showed that penicillin contained a beta-actam ring. Because wartime work on penicillin was secret, the structure of penicillin was only published in 1949. It appeared in D. Crowfoot, CW Bunn, BW Rogers-Low and A Turner Jones, The Chemistry of Penicillin (Princeton University Press, 1949) 310. 1945-05-01T00:00:00+00001947-01-01T00:00:00+0000This was based on McClintock's finding that two genes that controlled for pigmentation in maize could move along the chromosome to a different site and that these changes affected the behaviour of neighbouring genes. She suggested that this explained new mutations in pigmentation and other characteristics. 1948-01-01T00:00:00+0000The lambda phage has become a key tool in molecular biology and is important for genetic engineering. It has the advantage that it can be easily grown in E Coli and is not pathogenic except in the case of bacteria. Lederberg's discovery paved the way to understanding the transfer of genetic material between bacteria, the mechanisms involved in gene regulation and how piece of DNA break apart and recombine to make new genes. EM Lederberg, 'Lysogenicity in Escherichia coli strain K-12', Microbial Genetics Bulletin, 1, (1950), 5-9. 1950-01-01T00:00:00+0000HE Alexander and G Leidy, 'Transformation of Type Specificity of H. influenzae,' American Pediatric Society, French Lick, May 10, 1950.1950-05-10T00:00:00+0000Noted by Salvador Luria and his graduate student Mary Human while conducting experiments into the break-up of DNA in phage-infected bateria.1952-01-01T00:00:00+0000By transferring tumours to chick embryos, Levi-Montalcini noticed that certain cancerous tissue caused extremely rapid growth of nerve cells. She described it as 'like rivulets of water flowing steadily over a bed of stones.' R Levi-Montalcini, 'Effects of mouse tumor transplantation on the nervous system', Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 55/2 (1952), 330-44.1952-08-08T00:00:00+0000The finding was made by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase, American geneticists, while experimenting with the T2 bacteriophage, a virus that infects bacteria. They demonstrated that when bacteriophages, which are composed of DNA and protein, infect bacteria, their DNA enters the host bacterial cell, but most of their protein does not. Their work confirmed that DNA is the genetic material which refuted the long-held assumption that proteins carried the information for inheritance.1952-09-28T00:00:00+0000The drug emerged out of studies of organic compounds called purines conducted by Gertrude Elion with George Hitchings. Elion hypothesised that by preventing purines entering the metabolic pathway that leads to DNA synthesis it would be possible to stop the production of DNA and thereby stop cell growth. Elion synthesised a forerunner of 6-mercaptopurine in 1949, which was found to inhibit the growth of leukaemia in mice. 1953-01-01T00:00:00+0000One paper, published by Rosalind Franklin with her PhD student Ray Gosling, included an image produced with x-ray crystallography, which showed DNA to have regularly repeating helical structure. Known as photograph 51, this image had been previously been shown by Maurice Wilkins, without Franklin's permission, to James Watson, who, together with Francis Crick, used it to develop their double-helix model of DNA which was also published in Nature. Calculations from the photograph provided crucial parameters for the size of the helix and its structure, all of which were critical for Watson and Crick's molecular modelling work. Crick and Watson depicted DNA as having a double helix in which A always pairs with T, and C always with G. Their final model represented a correction of an earlier model in the light of comments made by Franklin that the hydrophilic backbones should not go at the centre of the molecule, as Watson and Crick had originally assumed, but go on the outside of the molecule where they could interact with water. The three papers were published in Nature, 171 (25 April 1953), 737-41.1953-04-25T00:00:00+0000Known as contact inhibition of locomotion (CIL), this process is essential for normal development and is needed for wound healing and responses to infection. Any disruption to the process can lead to or exacerbate human diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis and chronic inflammatory disorders. The CIL process was first observed by Michael Abercrombie and Joan Heaysman who published their work in 'Observations on the social behaviour of cells in tissue culture: II. ‘Monolayering’ of fibroblasts', Experimental Cell Research, 6 (1954), 293–306. 1954-01-01T00:00:00+0000The discovery was made by Paul C. Zamecnik with his colleagues Mahlon Hoagland and Mary Stephenson. tRNA is essential to protein synthesis. The molecule helps shuttle amino acids to the ribosome, the cell's protein factory. The work was subsequently published in MB Hoagland, ML Stephenson, JF Scott, ML Stephenson, LI Hecht, PC Zamecnik, 'A soluble ribonucleic acid intermediate in protein synthesis', Journal Biological Chemistry, 231 (1958), 241-57. 1956-01-01T00:00:00+00001956-01-01T00:00:00+0000The structure was worked out by Dorothy Hodgkin and her team using x-ray crystallography. The project was a major challenge because of the large size of the molecule and the fact that its atoms were largely unaccounted for. Dorothy Hodgkin, Jennifer Kamper, Maureen Mackay, Jennuy Pickworth, Kenneth N Trueblood, John G White, 'Structure of Vitamin B12', Nature, 178 (1956), 64-66. The achievement was described by Lawrence Bragg as significant 'as breaking the sound barrier'. It paved the way to the synthesis of the vitamin which is now given to patients with pernicious anaemia., 1956-07-14T00:00:00+0000Originally developed to measure insulin levels, the radioimmunoassay (RIA) provides a highly sensitive means of measuring incredibly low concentrations of many different substances in solutions. It does this by taking advantage of the antigen-antibody reaction and radioactive materials. The technique is now used for a variety of purposes, including screening for the hepatitis virus in blood, determining effective dosage levels of drugs and antibiotics, detecting foreign substances in the blood and correcting hormone levels in infertile couples. RS Yalolw, SA Berson, 'Assay of plasma in human subjects by immunological methods', Nature, 184 (1959), 1648-49. 1959-11-21T00:00:00+0000McClintock noticed the phenomenon during her experiments with maize. She reported her findings to the annual symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. 1961-01-01T00:00:00+0000Lorraine Kraus incubated bone marrow cells from a patient with sickle-cell anaemia with DNA from healthy donor. L.M. Kraus, ‘Formation of different haemoglobins in tissue culture of human bone marrow treated with human deoxyribonucleic acid’, Nature, 4807 (1961) 1055-57. 1961-12-16T00:00:00+0000Werner Arber, Swiss microbiologist and geneticist, and his doctoral student Daisy Dussoix proposed that bacteria produce restriction and modification enzymes to counter invading viruses. They published their findings in 'Host specificity of DNA produced by Escherichia coli I and II', Journal Molecular Biology, 5 (1962), 18–36 and 37-49.1962-01-23T00:00:00+0000H Alexander and K Sprunt, 'Invasion of mammalian cells by ribonucleic acid (RNA) isolated from poliovirus', 10th International Congress of Pediatrics, Lisbon, Portugal, September 9-15, 1962.1962-09-01T00:00:00+0000The finding was based on 10 years of research conducted by Elizabeth Stern with 10,5000 women who used a family planning clinic in Los Angeles. E Stern, PM Neely, 'Carcinoma and Dysplasia of the Cervix: A comparison of rates for new and returning populations', Acta Cytol, 7 (1963), 357-61.1963-01-01T00:00:00+0000Witkin proposed that UV-induced block of cell-division was due to the inhibition of a DNA replication enzyme. EM Witkin, 'Photoreversal and dark repair of mutations to prototrophy induced by ultraviolet light in photoreactivable and non-photoreactivable strains of Escherichia coli', Mutat Res, 106 (1964), 22–36.1964-05-01T00:00:00+0000Hodgkin was awarded the Prize in recognition of the work she did to determine the three-dimensional structure of penicillin (1945) and Vitamin B12 (1948). She achieved this feat by advancing the technique of X-ray crystallography for use on proteins. Hodgkin was the third woman to win the Nobel Prize. She subsequently worked out the three-dimensional structure of insulin in 1969, a project that took her 35 years to complete. 1964-12-10T00:00:00+0000The book contained all protein sequences known to-date. It was the result of a collective effort led by Margaret Dayhoff to co-ordinate the ever-growing amount of information about protein sequences and their biochemical function. It provided the model for GenBank and many other molecular databases. 1965-01-01T00:00:00+0000Drug resistant bacteria were first identified in Japan and then in Britain. Some of the earliest observations of this phenomenon were made by Naomi Datta who in 1962-63 showed that structures with some similarity to phages could transfer drug-resistance genes. Ephraim Anderson, director of the Enteric Reference Laboratory in Colindale, London, subsequently showed that genetic factors endowing resistance to major drugs used against human disease could be transferred by plasmids from minor pathogens. A summary of the work was published in ES Anderson, 'Origin of transferable drug-resistance in the enterobacteriaceae', British Medical Journal, 27 Nov 1965, 1289-91. 1965-11-27T00:00:00+0000Allopurinol was originally developed by Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings. The drug works by inhibiting uric acid synthesis. 1966-08-01T00:00:00+0000Tu did this as part of the Chinese national project against malaria. In the first stage of the project her team investigated more than 2,000 Chinese herbal preparations and identified 640 with possible anti-malarial activities. More than 380 were evaluated in a mouse model of malaria. 1967-01-01T00:00:00+0000The drug was developed by Gertrude Elion in 1957 as part of her development of purine analogues. 1968-03-01T00:00:00+0000Brigette Askonas, a Canadian biochemist, Alan Williamson, a British immunologist, and Brian Wright cloned B cells in vivo using spleen cells from mice immunised with haptenated carrier antigen. BA Askonas, AR Williamson, BEG Wright, 'Selection of a single antibody-forming cell clone and its propagation in syngeneic mice', PNAS, 67/3 (1970), 1398-14031970-11-01T00:00:00+0000This was done in Dale Kaiser's laboratory by Douglas Berg together with Janet Mertz and David Jackson1971-01-01T00:00:00+0000The technique uses antibodies to detect antibodies. It was first conceived by two Swedish scientists, Peter Perlman and Eva Engvall at Stockholm University. They published their method in 1971 as 'Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Quantitative assay of immunoglobulin G', Immunochemistry, 8/9, 871-4. 1971-09-01T00:00:00+0000The power of restriction enzymes to cut DNA was demonstrated by Kathleen Danna, a graduate student, with Daniel Nathans, her doctoral supervisor, at Johns Hopkins University. They published the technique in 'Specific cleavage of simian virus 40 DNA by restriction endonuclease of Hemophilus influenzae', PNAS USA, 68/12 (1971), 2913-17.1971-12-01T00:00:00+0000This followed positive results from clinical trials showing it could be effective for treating malaria. 1972-01-01T00:00:00+0000It was based on their finding that when DNA is cleaved with EcoRI, a restriction enzyme, it has sticky ends. JE Mertz, RW Davis, 'Cleavage of DNA by RI restriction endonuclease generates cohesive ends', PNAS, 69, 3370–3374 (1972). 1972-11-01T00:00:00+0000The phenomenon was worked out by Evelyn Witkin with Miroslav Radman. They showed that the repair is induced DNA damage which activates a co-ordinated cellular response. Their key papers on the matter were EM Witkin, DL George, 'Ultraviolet mutagenesis in polA and UvrA polA derivatives of Escherichia coli B-R: evidence for an inducible error-prone repair system', Genetics, 73/Suppl 73 (1973), 91–10; M Radman, 'SOS repair hypothesis: Phenomenology of an inducible DNA repair which is accompanied by mutagenesis', Basic Life Science, 5A (1975), 355–67; EM Witkin, 'Ultraviolet mutagenesis and inducible DNA repair in Escherichia coli', Bacteriol Review, 40/4 (1976), 869–907. 1973-01-01T00:00:00+0000The work was carried out by Stanley Cohen and Annie Chang at Stanford University in collaboration with Herbert Boyer and Robert Helling at the University of California San Francisco. They managed to splice sections of viral DNA and bacterial DNA with the same restriction enzyme to create a plasmid with dual antibiotic resistance. They then managed to insert this recombinant DNA molecule into the DNA of bacteria to express the new recombinant DNA. The technique showed it was possible to reproduce recombinant DNA in bacteria. It was published in SN Cohen, ACY Chang, HW Boyer, RB Belling, 'Construction of Biologically Functional Bacterial Plasmids In Vitro', PNAS USA, 10/11 (1973), 3240-3244. 1973-11-01T00:00:00+0000Her thesis focused on methods to isolate and characterise mutant variants of SV40 1975-01-01T00:00:00+0000The work was conducted by a team led by Brigette Askonas. It was published in AJ McMichael, A Ting, HJ Zweerink, BA Askonas, 'HLA restriction of cell-mediated lysis of influenza virus-infected human cells', Nature, 270/5637 (1977), 524-6; AJ McMichael, BA Askonas, 'Influenza virus-specific cytotoxic T cells in man; induction and properties of the cytotoxic cell', European Journal Immunolology, 8 (1978), 705-11.1977-01-01T00:00:00+0000The method, known as the oocyte stem, was developed by Janet Mertz together with John Gurdon and Edward M DeRobertis. It was published in EM. De Robertis, JB. Gurdon, GA. Partington, JE Mertz, RA, 'Injected amphibian oocytes: a living test tube for the study of eukaryotic gene transcription?', Biochemistry Society Symposium, 42 (1977),181-91.1977-01-01T00:00:00+0000The cloning, achieved by Beverly Griffin with Tomas Lindahl, was announced to a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor1979-01-01T00:00:00+0000Conducted by a team led by Beverly Griffin, the project's completion was a major achievement. It was one of the largest tracts of eukaryotic DNA sequenced up to this time. The work was published in E Soeda, JR Arrand, N Smolar, JE Walsh, BE Griffin, ‘Coding potential and regulatory signals of the polyoma virus genome’, Nature, 283 (1980) 445-53.1980-01-01T00:00:00+0000The database was started by Margaret Dayhoff at the NBRF in the mid 1960s and comprised over 200,000 residues. Within a month of its operation more than 100 scientists had requested access to the database. The database was funded with contributions from m Genex, Merck, Eli Lilly, DuPont, Hoffman–La Roche, and Upjohn, and computer time donated by Pfizer Medical Systems.1980-09-15T00:00:00+0000The device was developed by the husband and wife team Ingeborg and Erwin Hochmair with the goal of enabling the user not only to hear sounds but also to understand speech. The implant has a long, flexible electrode which allows for the delivery of electric signals to the auditory nerve along a large part of the cochlear. 1980-12-15T00:00:00+0000Youyou Tu and her team presented their paper 'Studies on the Chemistry of Qinghaosu', which outlined the efficacy of artemisinin and its derivatives in treating several thousand patients infected with malaria in China. The work attracted worldwide attention. 1981-01-01T00:00:00+0000The work, led by Beverly Griffin, opened up the possibility of sequencing the virus. It was published in J R Arrand, L. Rymo, J E Walsh, E Bjorck, T Lindahl and B E Griffin, ‘Molecular cloning of the complete Epstein-Barr virus genome as a set of overlapping restriction endonuclease fragments’, Nucleic Acids Research, 9/13 (1981), 2999-2014.1981-07-10T00:00:00+0000The drug was originally synthesised by Howard Schaeffer and then worked on by Gertrude Elion and her team at the Wellcome Research Laboratories. Elion's group worked out the metabolism of the drug and how it coluld attack the herpes virus. Their work opened up further research on enzyme differences in normal and virus-infected cells that paved the way to the development of other antiviral drugs. 1982-03-29T00:00:00+0000Two teams of scientists publish methods for the generation of chimeric monoclonal antibodies, that is antibodies possessing genes that are half-human and half mouse. Each team had developed their techniques separate from each other. The first team was lead by Michael Neuberger together with Terence Rabbitts and other colleagues at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. The second team consisted of Sherie Morrison and colleagues at Stanford University together with Gabrielle Boulianne and others at the University of Toronto. 1984-12-01T00:00:00+0000The scientists found the enzyme in the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila, a fresh-water protozoan with a large number of telomeres. CW Greider, EH Blackburn, 'Identification of a specific telomere terminal transferase activity in Tetrahymena extracts', Cell. 43 (2 Pt 1) (1985), 405–13.1984-12-01T00:00:00+0000The experiments, carried out in mice by Brigette Askobas and her colleagues, showed that T cells transferred into RSV infected mice showed that the T cells could protect against viral replication, eliminating residual virus from immunosuppressed mice. It also showed that T cells could at the same time cause enhanced lung disease that could be leathal. MJ Cannon, EJ Stott, G Taylor, BA Askonas, 'Clearance of persistent respiratory syncytial virus infections in immunodeficient mice following transfer of primed T cells', Immunology, 62 (1987), 133-38; MJ Cannon, PJ Openshaw, BA Askonas, 'Cytotoxic T cells clear virus but augment lung pathology in mice infected with respiratory syncytial virus', Journal Experimental Medicine, 168/3 (1988), 1163-8.1987-04-30T00:00:00+0000JA Doudna, BP Cormack, JW Szostak, 'RNA Structure, Not Sequence, Determines the 5? Splice-Site Specificity of a Group I Intron', PNAS, 86/19 (1989), 7402-06.1989-10-01T00:00:00+0000The was determined by a team led by Marie-Claire King who conducted a genetic analysis of 23 extended families, a total of 329 relatives. J Hall, M Lee, B Newman, J Morrow, L Anderson, B Huey, M King, 'Linkage of early-onset familial breast cancer to chromosome 17q21', Science, 250/4988 (1990): 1684–89. 1990-12-01T00:00:00+0000The work was led by Padmanee Sharma. The team's finding appeared in P. Sharma et al, ‘Thymus-leukaemia antigen interacts with T cells and self-peptides’, Journal Immunology, 156 (1996), 987-96.1996-02-01T00:00:00+0000N Krauzewicz, K Stokrova, C Jenkins, M Elliott, CF Higgns, BE Griffin, ‘Virus-like gene transfer to cell nuclei mediated by polyoma virus pseudocapsids’, Gene Therapy, 7 (2000), 2122-31.2000-01-02T00:00:00+0000The work was led by Ada Yonath using x-ray crystallography. This was a major achievement given the hundreds of thousands of atoms that ribosomes contain. Ribosomes help build proteins in the body. The work has led to many applications, including for the production of antibiotics. F Schlunzen, R Zarivach, J Harms, A Bashan, A Ticilj, R Albrecht, A Yonath, F Franceschi, 'Structural basis for the interaction of antibiotics with the peptidyl transferase centre in eubacteria', Nature, 413 (2001), 814-21. 2001-10-25T00:00:00+0000J Harms, F Schluenzen, R Zarivach et al, 'High resolution structure of the large ribosomal subunit from a mesophilic eubacterium,' Cell, 107 (2001), 679-88; PMID:11733066.2001-11-30T00:00:00+0000Padmanee Sharma et al, ‘Frequency of NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1 expression in bladder cancer and evidence of a new NY-ESO-1 T-cell epitope in a patient with bladder cancer’, Cancer Immunology, 3 (Dec 13 2003), 19.2003-12-13T00:00:00+0000The finding was made by the husband and wife team May-Britt Moser and Edvard I Moser together with John O'Keefe after conducting experiments with rats. They found that when a rat developed nerve cells that form a co-ordinate system for navigation when they passed certain points on a hexagonal grid. The teams work laid the foundation for new understandings about the cognitive processes and spacial deficits associated with neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. 2005-01-01T00:00:00+0000A team at Harvard Stem Cell Institute reported fusing adult skin cells with embryonic stem cells to reset the culture so that the cells behave like embryonic stem cells. The researchers did the work using pelvic bone cells as the somatic cells and a different human embryonic cell line. Chad A Cowan, Jocelyn Alenza, Douglas A Melton, Kevin Eggan, 'Nuclear reprogramming of somatic cells after fusion with human embryonic stem cells', Science, 309/5739 (2005), 1369-73. 2005-08-25T00:00:00+0000This was first observed by Padmanee Sharma. Her findings provided an important pathway for improving the clinical efficacy of anti-CTLA-4 therapy. They were first published Chrysoula I Liakou, Ashish Kamat, Derek Ng Tang, Hong Chen, Jingjing Sun, Patricia Troncoso, Christopher Logothetis, and Padmanee Sharma, ‘CTLA-4 blockade increases IFNgamma-producing CD4+ICOShi T cells to shift the ratio of effector to regulatory T cells in cancer patients’, PNAS USA, 105/39 (Sept 2008), 14987-92.2006-01-01T00:00:00+0000June Almeida was a major pioneer of electron microscopy which helped transform knowledge about virology. She is best known for taking the first electron micrograph of the rubella virus and a human coronavirus. Her work also helped uncover the structure of the hepatitis B virus which paved the way to developing a vaccine against hepatitis B. She also published some of the first high quality images of HIV. 2007-12-01T00:00:00+0000The idea of using gene therapy to treat vision loss in patients with multiple sclerosis emerged out of an investigation of the molecular change in synapses in the visual system by Dorothy Schafer and her colleagues. They found that in the case of demyelinating disease like MS, there was an abundance of the protein CD3 in the synapses, which is responsible for sending signals microglia to eliminate otherwise healthy-seeming synapses. The aim of gene therapy would be to deliver an inhibitor of C3 to synapses in the visual system to help protect the cells or tissue from unwanted attack by the immune system. S.Werneberg et al, 'Targeted complement inhibition at synapses prevents microglial synaptic engulfment and synapse loss in demyelinating disease', Immunity, 52/1 (2020), 167-82, e7.2010-01-14T00:00:00+0000The patent was submitted by Jennifer Doudna, at the University of California Berkeley, and Emmanuell Charpentier, at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Germany. The application was for a patent to cover the use of CRISPR-Cas9 for genome editing in vitro.2012-05-25T00:00:00+0000M Jinek, K Chylinski, I Fonfara, M Hauer, J A Doudna, E Charpentier, 'A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity', Science, 337/6096 (2012): 816-21.2012-08-17T00:00:00+0000Team of scientists led by Kathy Niakan based at Francis Crick Institute in London sought permission from UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to use gene editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas on embryos less than 2 weeks old. Research designed to understand why some women lose their babies before term. 2015-09-18T00:00:00+0000The work was undertaken by a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh led by Evelyn Telfer. It involved taking tiny pieces of ovarian tissue from 10 women undergoing elective caesarean surgery extracting priorial follicles, small structures that have the potential to release an egg, which were then placed in a nutrient-rich liquid to grow. The team then carefully removed the fragile, immature eggs and some surrounding cells from the follicles and placed them on a special membrane with the addition of growth-supporting proteins so that they could grow to become the size you would see of an egg during ovulation. Most of the eggs failed to grow, but 10% completed their journey to maturity - that is they were able to divide and halve their chromosomes so they were ready to be fertilised by sperm. The work was published in M McLaughlin, DF Albertini, WHB Wallace, RA Anderson, EE Telfer, Molecular Human Reproduction, 24/3 (March 2018) 135-42. DOI: 10.1093/molehr/gay002. 2018-01-30T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Sciences
1897Marie Curie hypothesised that radiation came from the atom and not from the interaction of molecules.Curie 
1897 - 1899Marie Curie devised methods for measuring radioactivityCurie 
1898Marie Curie, together with her husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium, two new elementsCurie 
April 1898Marie Curie coined the term 'radioactivity'Curie 
1905Nettie Stevens showed that sex is inherited by a chromosomal factor and that males determine the gender of offspringStevensReproduction
1911Marie Curie published the standard for radiumCurie 
1914Marie Curie developed small, mobile x-ray units for the diagnosis of injuries at the battlefront in World War ICurie 
1929Carl and Gerty Cori outlined the body's metabolic pathway to break down some carbohydrates, like glycogen, and synthesise othersCarl Cori, Gerty CoriMetabolism
5 Oct 1930June Almeida was born in Glasgow, ScotlandAlmeidaVirology, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
August 1931Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton, her graduate student, provided first experimental proof that genes are positioned on chromosomesMcClintock, CreightonGenetics, DNA
1934Irène Joliot-Curie and Frederic Joliot, her husband, created radioactive nitrogen out of boronJoliot-Curie 
1939Human occytes shown to complete meiosis in vitroPincus, SaundersEmbryology, Reproduction, IVF
1 Oct 1939Hattie Alexander reported the first successful cure of infant suffering from influenzal meningitis AlexanderAntibacterial agents
September 1940First fermentation work on penicillin undertaken in the US to up-scale productionDawson, Hobby, MeyerAntibacterial agents
1944Evelyn Witkin discovered radiation resistance in bactieraWitkinGenetics, DNA
1945First three-dimensional structure of a steroid (cholesteryl iodide) publishedD Hodgkin, CarlisleX ray crystallography
May 1945Structure of penicillin determined using x-ray crystallographyD Hodgkin, Bunn, Rogers-Low, Turner JonesAntibacterial agents
1947Dorothy Hodgkin elected to Royal SocietyD Hodgkin 
1948 - 1950McClintock developed her theory of genetic transpositionMcClintockGenetics
January 1950Esther Lederberg discovered the lambda phageEsther LederbergBacteriophages, Genetics, Recombinant DNA
10 May 1950Hattie E Alexander and Grace Leidy reported success using DNA to alter the hereditary characteristics of Hemophilus influenzaeAlexander, LeidyGenetics
1952First observation of the modification of viruses by bacteriaLuria, HumanRestriction enzymes, Recombinant DNA, DNA Sequencing
1952Rita Levi-Montalcini announced isolation of nerve-growth factorLevi-MontalciniNeuroscience
28 Sep 1952Experiments proved DNA, and not proteins, hold the genetic codeHershey, ChaseDNA
1953FDA approved 6-mercaptopurine as treatment for childhood leukaemiaElion, HitchingOncology
25 Apr 1953Nature published three papers showing the molecular structure of DNA to be a double helixFranklin, Gosling, Crick, Watson, Wilkins. Stokes, WilsonDNA
1954Cells observed to stop moving on contact with other cells Abercrombie, HeaysmanCell culture
1956Transfer RNA (tRNA) discoveredZamecnik, Hoagland, Stephenson,DNA, RNA
1956Alice Stewart demonstrated the link between x-rays of pregnant women and childhood cancerStewart 
14 Jul 1956Complete structure of vitamin B12 publishedHodgkin, Kamper, MacKay, Pickworth, Trueblood, WhiteX ray crystallography
21 Nov 1959Rosalyn Yalow and Soloman Berson published the radioimmunoassay method opening up a new era in immunology and diagnosticsYalow, BersonAntibodies, Diagnostics
1961'Jumping genes', transposable elements, discovered by Barbara McClintockMcLintockDNA, Genetics
16 Dec 1961First successful direct incorporation of functional DNA into a human cellKrausGene therapy
23 Jan 1962Idea of restriction and modification enzymes bornArber, DussoixRestriction enzymes, Recombinant DNA, DNA Sequencing, Epigenetics
September 1962Hattie Alexander and Katherine Sprunt demonstrated that the RNA of the poliovirus can independently infect human cells Alexander, SpruntRNA
1963First report linking a specific virus (herpes simplex virus) to a specific cancer (cervical cancer)SternOncology, Virology
May 1964Evelyn Witkin discovered that UV mutagenesis in E. coli could be reversed through dark exposureWitkinDNA
10 Dec 1964Dorothy Hodgkin became the first British woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry HodgkinX ray crystallography
1965First comprehensive protein sequence and structure computer data published as 'Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure'Dayhoff, Ledley, EckDNA Sequencing
27 Nov 1965Plasmids noted to carry genes conveying antibiotic resistance in bacteriaAnderson, DattaAntimicrobial resistance, Plasmids
August 1966FDA approved allopurinol for goutElion, Hitching 
1967Youyou Tu started working on extraction and isolation of Chinese herbal materials with antimalarial propertiesTu 
March 1968FDA approved azathioprine, an immunosuppressant to prevent rejection of kidney transplantsElionTransplantation
November 1970Means developed for cloning B cells that produce single antibodies with known specificityAskonas, Williamson, WrightMonoclonal antibodies
1971First plasmid bacterial cloning vector constructedBerg, Mertz, JacksonRecombinant DNA
September 1971Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique first publishedPerlmann, EngvallAntibodies, Diagnostics
December 1971First experiments published demonstrating the use of restriction enzymes to cut DNADanna, NathansRestriction enzymes, Recombinant DNA, DNA Sequencing
1972Youyou Tu and her team isolated and purified artemisinin (qinghaosu)Tu 
November 1972Janet Mertz and Ronald Davis published first easy-to-use technique for constructing recombinant DNA showed that when DNA is cleaved with EcoRI, a restriction enzyme, it has sticky endsMertz, DavisRecombinant DNA
1973 - 1976Discovery of DNA repair mechanism in bacteria - the SOS responseWitkin, RadmanDNA
1 Nov 1973First time DNA was successfully transferred from one life form to anotherCohen, Chang, BoyerRecombinant DNA
January 1975Mertz completed her doctorate MertzRecombinant DNA
1977 - 1978Cytolytic T cells shown to recognise multiple subtypes of viruses, including influenza virusesMcMichael, Ting, Zweerink, AskonasImmunology
1977First method developed for studying gene regulation in a higher organismMertz, Gurdon, De RobertisGenetics
1979First DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus cloned Griffin, LindahlRecombinant DNA, Virology, Cloning
1980Polyoma virus DNA sequencedGriffin, Soeda, Arrand, WalshDNA sequencing
15 Sep 1980Largest nucleic acid sequence database in the world made available free over telephone networkDayhoffDNA Sequencing
December 1980First patient received cochlear implant providing some understanding of speechIngeborg Hochmair, Erwin HochmairElectrical engineering
1981Anti-malarial properties of artemisinin presented to WHO and World Bank meeting in BeijingTu 
10 Jul 1981Complete library of overlapping DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus clonedGriffin, Arrand, Walsh, Bjorck, RymoRecombinant DNA, Oncology, Virology, Cloning
29 Mar 1982FDA approved acyclovir, the first successful antiviral drug, for treating the herpes virusElion, HowardVirology
1984First chimeric monoclonal antibodies developed, laying foundation for safer and more effective monoclonal antibody therapeuticsNeuberger, Rabbitts, Morrison, Oi, Herzenberg, Boulianne, Schulman, HozumiMonoclonal antibodies, Recombinant DNA
December 1984Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn announced the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that adds extra DNA bases to the ends of chromosomesBlackburn, GreiderDNA
1987 - 1988Mice experiments showed T cells to be double-edged sword in clearing persistent infections with respiratory syncytial virusCannon, Stott, Taylor, Askonas, OpenshawImmunology
October 1989RNA demonstrated to help catalyse the process for synthesising proteinDoudna, Cormack, SzostakRNA
December 1990BRCA1, a single gene on chromosome 17, shown to be responsible for many breast and ovarian cancersKing, Lee, Newman, Morrow, Anderson, HueyGenetics, DNA sequencing
1 Feb 1996Paper published indicating thymus-leukaemia antigen, a cell-surface marker, stimulates T cells to destroy specific target cellsSharmaCancer immunotherapy, Oncology
2 Jan 2000Polyoma virus shown to be potential tool for delivering gene therapyKrauzewicz, Stokrova, Jenkins, Elliott, Higgns, GriffinGene therapy
25 Oct 2001Structure and function of ribosomes deciphered opening up new era for improving antibiotic drugs and designing new onesYonath, Schlunzen, Zarivach, Harms, Basham, Ticilj, Albrecht, FrancheschiAntibactieral agents, RNA, X ray crystallography
30 Nov 2001Ada Yonath and colleagues published the complete high-resolution of structures of both ribosomal subunits and discovered a region important to the process of polypeptide polymerisationYonathBiochemistry, X ray crystallography, RNA
13 Dec 2003Sharma discovered some bladder cancer cells expressed the marker NY-ESO-1 providing means for cancer vaccineSharmaCancer immunotherapy, Oncology
1 Jan 2005Discovery of nerve cell that allows the brain to determine spatial position May-Britt Moser, Edvard Moser, O'KeefeNeuroscience
25 Aug 2005Harvard scientists reported reprogramming adult skin cells into embryonic stem cells Cowan, Eggan, Melton, AlienzaStem cells
2006Inducible co-stimulator (ICOS) protein found to enhance anti-CTLA-4 treatment in destruction of cancer cellsSharma, Liakou, Kamat, Ng Tang, Chen, Sun, Troncoso, LogothetisCancer immunotherapy, Immune checkpoint inhibitors
1 Dec 2007June Almeida diedAlmeidaVirology, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
14 Jan 2010Research published suggesting gene therapy could help preserve neural circuits and protect against vision loss in patients with multiple sclerosisDorothy Schafer, Werneburg, Jung, Kunjama Gene therapy
May 2012First patent application submitted for CRISPR-Cas 9 technologyDoudna, CharpentierCRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing
17 Aug 2012Publication of radically new gene editing method that harnesses the CRISPR-Cas9 system Jinek, Chylinski, Fonfara, Hauer, Doudna, CharpentierCRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing
18 Sep 2015UK scientists sought license to genetically modify human embryos to study the role played by genes in the first few days of human fertilisationNaikanCRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing
30 Jan 2018First human eggs grown in laboratoryTelfer, McLaughlin, Albertini, Wallace, AndersonReproduction

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