Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Genetics in Medicine - Part 1 » Biotechnology and History of Genetic Engineering - Genetic Engineering Versus Biotechnology, Further Advances And Ethical Concerns, Key Technical Developments, Patents And The Rise Of Biotechnology Companies

Biotechnology and History of Genetic Engineering - Key Technical Developments

differences clinical human insulin genentech dna

Advances in biotechnology were marked by the development of key research techniques. In 1976, Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson founded Genentech, the first biotechnology company to use recombinant DNA technology in developing commercially useful products such as drugs. The year 1977 is considered the "dawn of modern biotechnology," for it was in that year that the first human protein was cloned and manufactured using genetic engineering technology: Genentech reported the cloning of the human hormone somatostatin. This year was also important for the development of the technique of DNA sequencing, achieved by Fred Sanger and Walter Gilbert (who, with Paul Berg, shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in chemistry).

In 1978 Genentech was able to isolate the gene for human insulin and begin clinical trials that resulted in the approval and marketing of the first genetically engineered drug for human use. This was a major accomplishment. Diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, affects millions of Americans. In the past, insulin was extracted from the pancreases of cows or pigs, then used to treat diabetics. Although insulin from these species is very similar to human insulin and was effective in humans, the small differences between human and animal insulin were enough to cause problems for some patients. Often patients developed immunological reactions to the foreign protein, reducing its effectiveness. With the availability of genetically engineered human insulin, these problems were eliminated.

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