Biotechnology Timeline


  • Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute create the first synthetic cell.


  • The National Institutes of Health begins a 10-year, 10,000-patient study using a genetic test that predicts breast-cancer recurrence and guides treatment. Patients whose cancer is deemed unlikely to recur will be spared chemotherapy. The genetic test, Oncotype DXTM was developed by the biotech company Genomic Health and is already commercially available.


  • The sequence of the human genome is published in Science and Nature, making it possible for researchers all over the world to begin developing treatments.


  • A rough draft of the human genome map is produced, showing the locations of more than 30,000 genes.
  • Cloned vain RT with fully active polymerase and minimized Rnase H activity is engineered.
  • The Biotechnology Institute is founded by BIO as an independent national, 501(c)(3) education organization with an independent Board of Trustees.


  • Scottish scientists report cloning a sheep, using DNA from adult sheep cells.
  • A group of Oregon researchers claims to have cloned two Rhesus monkeys.
  • A new DNA technique combines PCR, DNA chips, and a computer program, providing a new tool in the search for disease-causing genes.


  • Chiron's Betaseron is approved as the first treatment for multiple sclerosis in 20 years.
  • The FDA declares that genetically engineered foods are "not inherently dangerous" and do not require special regulation.
  • The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is created by merging two smaller trade associations.


  • The first federally approved gene therapy treatment is performed successfully on a 4-yearold girl suffering from an immune disorder.


  • Congress funds the Human Genome Project, a massive effort to map and sequence the human genetic code as well as the genomes of other species.


  • The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique is conceived. PCR, which uses heat and enzymes to make unlimited copies of genes and gene fragments, later becomes a major tool in biotech research and product development worldwide.
  • The first genetic transformation of plant cells by TI plasmids is performed.
  • The first artificial chromosome is synthesized.
  • The first genetic markers for specific inherited diseases are found.
  • Efficient methods are developed to synthesize double-stranded DNA from first-strand cDNA involving minimal loss of sequence information.


  • The North Carolina Biotechnology Center is created by the state's General Assembly as the nation's first state-sponsored initiative to develop biotechnology. Thirty-five other states follow with biotechnology centers of various kinds.
  • The first gene-synthesizing machines are developed.
  • The first genetically engineered plant is reported.
  • Mice are successfully cloned.


  • Cohen and Boyer perform the first successful recombinant DNA experiment, using bacterial genes.


  • An enzyme is synthesized in vitro for the first time.


  • The first automatic protein sequencer is perfected.


  • Watson and Crick reveal the three-dimensional structure of DNA.


  • The electron microscope is used to identify and characterize a bacteriophage- a virus that infects bacteria.


  • The term "genetic engineering" is first used by a Danish microbiologist.


  • Fleming discovers penicillin, the first antibiotic.


  • The word "biotechnology" is first used by a Hungarian agricultural engineer.


  • Phages, or bacterial viruses, are discovered.


  • Genes are linked with hereditary disorders.


  • The chromosome is discovered by Waldyer.


  • The Escherichia coli bacterium is discovered. It later becomes a major research, development, and production tool for biotechnology.
  • Pasteur begins working with yeast, eventually proving they are living organisms.


  • The word "biology" first appears.


  • Leeuwenhoek discovers protozoa and bacteria.


  • Cells are first described by Hooke.