Biology in the Laboratory

Historical Interest in Biotechnology

What were some major biotechnological achievements of the mid-twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries?

Numerous (too many to mention here) advancements in biotechnology have been made in the mid-twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. The following lists only a few of those achievements:




American biochemist Stanley Cohen (1922–) uses plasmids to transfer antibiotic resistance to bacterial cells.


American biochemist Herb Boyer (1936–) discovers that certain bacteria can “restrict” some bacteriophages by producing enzymes (restriction enzymes).


American biochemist Paul Berg (1926–) splices together DNA from the SV 40 virus and E. coli, making recombinant DNA; shares 1980 Nobel Prize with American molecular biologist Walter Gilbert (1932–) and British biochemist Fred Sanger (1918–2013; he has won the Nobel twice, also in 1958).


American biochemist Stanley Cohen (1922–), then research technician Annie Chang, and American biochemist Herb Boyer (1936–) splice frog DNA into E. coli, producing the first recombinant organism.


DNA sequencing developed by American molecular biologist Walter Gilbert (1932–), American molecular geneticist Allan Maxam (1952–), and British biochemist Fred Sanger (1918–2013).


Human insulin cloned in E. coli by a biotech company called Genentech.


America biochemist Kary Banks Mullis (1944–) develops the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in which DNA polymerase can copy a DNA segment many times in a short period of time.


Human Genome Project (HGP) begins; it is complete by 2003.


Researchers at National Institutes of Health (NIH) use gene therapy to treat a human patient.


Introduction of the first transgenic food, the Flavr Savr tomato; it is engineered for a longer shelf life.


Dolly the Finn Dorset lamb—the first mammal—is cloned by English embryologist Ian Wilmut (1944–).


First human artificial chromosome is developed.


Completion of the first working draft (90 percent complete) of the Human Genome Project.


Glofish—a fish that fluoresces and is the first genetically modified pet—are marketed and sold in the U.S.


By now, the rat, mouse, and human genomes are the first mammals to be sequenced— and all have roughly the same number of genes—between 25,000 and 30,000.


The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project publishes its “Map-based sequence of the rice genome,” covering 95 percent of the genome of the world’s most important staple crop.


Human artificial chromosomes were created and patented, and companies appear to use this new technology.


A study suggests that some RNAi drugs work by activating the immune system rather than by silencing genes.


The first synthetic bacterial cell is created.


The Neanderthal Genome Project points to genetic evidence that interbreeding did likely take place between Neanderthals and “modern” humans—and that a small but significant portion of this Neanderthal mix is present in modern non-African populations.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifts a lower-court injunction— thus allowing further research on the controversial use of embryonic stem cells.


Companies develop more “smart drugs”; for example, drug design based on understanding on how genes and proteins work—unlike the past, when many drugs were based on random hit-and-miss experiments with organic molecules.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Biology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App