Discoveries in Genetics
Some Stanford - and other - contributions
1866 Gregor Mendel establishes the principles of genetics.
1910 The basic unit of heredity is dubbed a “gene.”
1949 In the catacombs of Stanford’s Jordan Hall, George Beadle and Edward Tatum earn a Nobel Prize by proving that one gene usually commands the production of one protein to do a specific job in the cell.
1952-53 Scientists prove that DNA alone is the substance that transmits heredity, and that it has a spiraling, double-helix structure.
1955 Arthur Kornberg synthesizes DNA in a test tube. The feat earns him a Nobel Prize in 1959 -- the same year he brings an entire biochemistry department with him from Washington University to Stanford.
1964 Charles Yanofsky establishes the basis for cracking the genetic code. He shows the code is co-linear - groups of the chemicals that make up DNA are translated “word for word” into the amino acids that make up proteins.
1964 Stanford’s Philip Hanawalt and Richard B. Setlow of Oak Ridge National Laboratory show that DNA repairs itself.
1971 Paul Berg and his colleagues join DNA from unrelated species and lay the groundwork for recombinant DNA technology; Berg receives the Nobel Prize in 1980
1971 Hugh McDevitt discovers genes that control immune responses to foreign substances -- the first suggestion that people may have predictable genetic susceptibilities to certain diseases.
1972 Ron Davis and Janet Mertz discover restriction endonucleases, essential for cleaving and “recombining” DNA.
1973 Stanford’s Stanley Cohen and UCSF’s Herbert Boyer develop a practical method to clone genes by transplanting them from one species to another. The patents on their processes launch the genetic engineering revolution and earn millions of dollars in royalties for both universities.
1975 Paul Berg presides over international Asilomar Conference as scientists propose strict standards for safety in their own recombinant DNA research. By the 1980s, the research is determined to be safe and restrictions are relaxed.
1980 David Botstein and Ron Davis, both now at Stanford, and Ray White and Mark Skolnick, now at the University of Utah, propose a way to scan the whole genome to pinpoint the location of genes. This “positional cloning” makes gene-finding practical and creates the need for a human genome map.
1984 Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza starts a pilot version of the Human Genome Diversity Project, collecting cell lines from different human populations to study the origins, diversity and unity of the human species. Responding to controversy, the project develops a model ethical framework to protect and respect communities that choose to donate gene samples.
1986 Medical student Jeremy Nathans finds the genes for color vision and color blindness, working with David Hogness, Douglas Vollrath and Ron Davis.
1989 Congress approves a $3 billion, 15-year project to map the entire human genome, and compare it to the genomes of mice, fruit flies, yeast and other model organisms. Congress mandates 3-5% of the funds to study the ethical, legal and social implications of genome knowledge.
1990 An international effort to map the genome for the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana begins, led by the Carnegie Institution’s Plant Biology Department on the Stanford campus.
1992 In a step toward a cancer vaccine, Ronald Levy stimulates cancer patients’ immune systems with genetically engineered vaccines grown from their own tumors.
1992 Uta Francke and Eric Shooter show that the “trembler” gene in mice is the cause of Charcot-Marie-Tooth, the most common nerve disorder in humans.
1993 David Cox and Rick Myers are recruited to Stanford from UCSF. Developers of radiation hybrid mapping, a basic tool of the genome search, they join with the DNA Sequencing Technology project headed by David Botstein and Ron Davis to form the Stanford Human Genome Center.
1993 Gerald Crabtree develops different genetic “switch” to turn genes on and off.
1993 Patrick Brown develops genomic mismatch scanning, a fast way to search for genes in families by comparing the genomes of individuals
1994 Victor Dzau tests gene alterations on vein grafts. The new genes help make the veins resistant to clogging by plaque after they are grafted onto arteries in heart bypass surgery.
1995 Patrick Brown and Ron Davis develop a microarray technique to show which genes are expressed, or “turned on,” in a cell. The technique helps change scientists’ focus, from a search for individual genes to a search for patterns of gene expression.
1995 Phyllis Gardner and John Wagner begin trials to test a new type of gene therapy in young adults with cystic fibrosis.
1995 Some genes found at Stanford in ’95: A gene that may be linked to Parkinson’s Disease, and markers for a rare form of epilepsy (Rick Myers and David Cox).Genes for two rare inherited diseases, Williams and Marfan syndromes (Uta Francke). Study shows how the uncontrolled growth of tumors starts with a mutation of the gene for p53, a protein essential for the birth and death of cells(Amato Giaccia).
1995 Stanford Program in Genomics, Ethics and Society is founded. A session of the November 1996 International Conference on Bioethics will review the program’s first white paper, on breast cancer gene tests.
1996 Matthew Scott uses genome maps to locate a human gene similar to one well-studied in fruit flies. In the process, he finds the gene for the most common form of human skin cancer.
1996 An international project led by Botstein and Davis at Stanford sequences the entire 12.5 million base-pair genome of baker’s yeast. A bacterium was charted out in ’95, but this is the first cell with a nucleus to be sequenced. The yeast is put to work testing genes that might have analogous functions in humans.
1996 Stanford and other genome centers publish first large-scale “maps” of the human genome, with a marker every 500,000 “rungs” on the DNA ladder. Rick Myers and David Cox are leaders in new phase of National Human Genome Project: to refine maps and sequence every one of the 3 billion base pairs of DNA ahead of schedule, by 2003.
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