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 e.
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: 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"
1983: Richard Feynman’s lecture "Infinitesimal Machinery“
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
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: Srinivasan Chandrasegaran invents ZFN to edit genomes
1994: Affymetrix introduces the first "DNA chip" (or microarray)
1995: Robert Fleischmann sequences the genome of a free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus Influenzae
1996: Ian Wilmut clones "Dolly" the sheep
1997: DARPA’s Microflumes program to fund research in microfluidics
1998: James Thomson and Jeffrey Jones isolate human embryonic stem cells
1999: Agilent introduces the first commercial "lab-on-a-chip" product
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: Fyodor Urnov uses ZFN to edit human DNA
2005: Drew Endy’s “Foundations for Engineering Biology”
2007: Personal genomics (Knome, 23andMe)
2007: Shinya Yamanaka converts adult human cells into pluripotent stem cells.
2009: Jean Bennett's gene therapy restores vision in Corey Haas
2010: Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith (Maryland) reprogram a bacterium's DNA
2010: Cheap printers for living beings (OpenPCR, Cambrian Genomics)
2010: Carl June's CAR-T therapy
2011: The TALEN technique for genome editing (Dan Voytas, Adam Bogdanove)
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
2012: the first gene-therapy treatment approved in the West, Glybera by UniQure
2013: Shoukhrat Mitalipov creates human embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos
2014: Jef Boeke synthesizes a chromosome (in yeast)
2015: Chinese Scientists genetically modify human embryos
2015: The cost of a personal genetic test-kit is $100, down from $3 billion in 2003
2015: Cellectis cures leukaemia in Layla Richards using TALENS editing
2015: Katsuhiko Hayashi's in vitro gametogenesis
2016: David Liu’s base editing
2017: First gene therapy for cancer treatment approved in the USA
2017: Shoukhrat Mitalipov repairs a genetic mutation in human embryos that causes a heart disease
A Timeline of CRISPR
  • 1993: Francisco Mojica (Spain) describes CRISPR
  • 2005: Mojica discovers that CRISPR is an adaptive immune system
  • 2005: Alexander Bolotin (France) discovers Cas9
  • 2006: Eugene Koonin (NIH) shows the DNA-repair value of Cas proteins
  • 2007: Rodolphe Barrangou and Philippe Horvath at Danisco (France) prove the adaptive immunity
  • 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)
  • 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

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