The following includes select facts from life science history, both global
and British Columbia-province specific, that help explain the origins of the province's life science
industry. Please note that these facts are part of a much larger state- and province-specific
history database that will be launched in the near future. In the meantime, we encourage you
to learn about the scientists behind the discoveries, the entrepreneurs, companies,
philanthropists, political leaders, and significant events, institutions
and companies that are the foundation of the life science industry in the province
of British Columbia.
If you are aware of a notable event, person, organization/company or accomplishment that we should include,
please e-mail us at: Suggestions@InfoResource.org
1859 -- Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species."
In 1859, British naturalist Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by Means of
Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life"
in which he postulated his theory of evolution that explained how the diverse of
species on Earth evolved from a simple, singled-celled ancestor.
Darwin's theory of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly
and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that organism's ability
to adapt to its environment. Darwin's theory of evolution remains the foundation of modern
1865 -- Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, presented his laws of heredity.
Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian considered the father of modern genetics,
conducted crossbreeding experiments with pea plants between 1856 and 1863. Through this work,
he established many of the rules of heredity.
"In 1859 I obtained a very fertile descendant with large, tasty seeds from a first generation
hybrid. Since in the following year, its progeny retained the desirable characteristics
and were uniform, the variety was cultivated in our vegetable garden, and many plants were
raised every year up to 1865. (Gregor Mendel to Carl Nägeli, April 1867).
1887 -- Marine Hospital Service Hygienic Laboratory (National Institutes of Health) was founded.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) traces its roots to 1887,
when a one-room laboratory was created within the Marine Hospital Service (MHS), predecessor agency to the
U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The MHS was established in 1798 to provide for the medical care of
merchant seamen -- charged by Congress with examining passengers on arriving ships for clinical signs of
infectious diseases, such as cholera and yellow fever, to prevent epidemics.
During the 1870s and 1880s, scientists in Europe presented compelling evidence that microscopic organisms
were the causes of several infectious diseases, and MHS officials closely followed these developments.
In 1887, Joseph Kinyoun, a MHS physician trained in the new bacteriological
methods, set up a one-room laboratory in the Marine Hospital at Stapleton, Staten Island,
New York. Kinyoun called this facility a "laboratory of hygiene" in imitation of German facilities, and within
a few months, he identified the cholera bacillus and used his Zeiss microscope to
demonstrate it to his colleagues as confirmation of their clinical diagnoses
(Photo: courtesy of the NIH Almanac).
1908 -- The University of British Columbia was founded.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded
in 1908 by The University Act. In 1910 a site was chosen at Point Grey just outside Vancouver, but the university had
to postpone building due to the outbreak of war in 1914. The school used the former McGill college site
in Fairview until 1925.
Today the university enrolls over 40,000 students and holds an international reputation for
excellence in advanced research and learning. The university has three campuses within
the city of Vancouver as well as a small campus in Kelowna, BC called UBC Okanagan.
UBC ranks in the top 10 of universities in North America creating spin-off companies with over 120
1918 -- Spanish Influenza Pandemic.
It is estimated that between 25 and 40 million people died
from the the influenza outbreak that began in 1918, swept across
around the world in three months. In Canada more than 50,000 people
died and all parts of the country were affected.
1919 -- Stanley Cup playoffs between the Montreal Canadians and Seattle Metropolitans cancelled by Spanish flu.
On April 1, 1919, the Stanley Cup playoffs between the Montreal Canadians and the
Seattle Metropolitans ended tied at 2-2-1 after the city of Seattle health department called
off the series. Several of the Canadians and Seattle players caught the flu, and recovered.
On April 5, 1919, five days after the final was cancelled, one Canadian player Joseph
Henry “Bad Joe” Hall, the oldest player in NHL hockey, succumbed to pneumonia. He was
posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. He was 37 years old.
George Kennedy, manager of the Canadiens, tried to forfeit the Cup, but Pete Muldoon,
manager and coach of Seattle, declined. The series was ruled a tie and the Stanley Cup
was not awarded in 1919, for the only time since it's inception in 1893.
The Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917 when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens.
1933 -- Thomas Hunt Morgan was awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his
chromosome theory of heredity.
Thomas Hunt Morgan pioneered the new science of genetics through experimental
research with the fruit fly (Drosophila), laying the foundations for the future of biology. On
the basis of fly-breeding experiments he demonstrated that genes are linked in a series on
chromosomes and that they determine indentifiable, hereditary traits.
1947 -- Transistor invented at AT&T's Bell Laboratories.
The transistor, the invention that marked the dawn of the
information age, was invented by John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain at AT&T's Bell Laboratories. Bardeen,
Shockley and Brattain were awarded the 1956
Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of the transistor effect.
1953 -- Double helix structure of DNA was revealed.
The double helix structure of DNA, the hereditary molecule is revealed by
two scientists, James D. Watson and Francis Crick. This is one of the key
discoveries of the century. Watson and Crick shared the 1962
Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Maurice Wilkins for their discoveries
concerning the molecular structure of nuclear acids and its significance for information
transfer in living material.
Jack Kilby, an engineer at
Texas Instruments shows only a transistor and other components on a slice of
germanium. This invention (7/16-by-1/16-inches in size), called an integrated
circuit, revolutionized the electronics industry. Kilby was awarded
the 2000 Nobel Prize in
Physics for his invention of the integrated circuit.
(Photo: Jack Kilby courtesy of Texas Instruments)
Jack Kilby went on to pioneer military, industrial, and commercial applications of
microchip technology. He headed teams that built both the first military system and the
first computer incorporating integrated circuits. He later co-invented both the hand-held
calculator and the thermal printer that was used in portable data terminals.
Mr. Kilby officially retired from TI in 1983, but he maintained a significant involvement
with the company throughout his life.
1961 -- President John F. Kennedy expanded the U.S. Space Program
Listen to President John F. Kennedy's speech in
his historic message to a joint session of the Congress, on May 25, 1961 declared,
"...I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade
is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." This goal was
achieved when astronaut Neil A. Armstrong became the first human to set foot upon the
Moon at 10:56 p.m. EDT, July 20, 1969. Shown in the background are, (left) Vice
President Lyndon Johnson, and (right) Speaker of the House Sam T. Rayburn. The expansion of
the U.S. Space Program resulted in the development of a wide range of technology with
enormous benefit to human and animal kind.
(Photo: courtesy National Aeronautics & Space Administration)
1969 -- Man walked on the moon.
In July of 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, American astronauts, made
history by becoming the first men to walk on the moon.
Listen to Neil Armstrong's first words as he steps onto the lunar
surface (66 kb .wav file). Photo: Courtesy of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration)
An important benefit of the Apollo Lunar Program and
other NASA programs is the ever-growing pipeline of technology that improves human and
veterinary healthcare diagnostics and therapeutics.
1969 -- Victor McKusick published "Mendelian Inheritance in Man".
Victor McKusick, widely acknowledged as the father of medical genetics, spent his career studying
the genetic basis of diseases and disorders with the belief that such an understanding could lead
to new methods of diagnosis and treatment. He studied, identified, and mapped genes responsible for
inherited conditions such as Marfan syndrome and dwarfism (specifically in Amish communities).
In 1969, he proposed the idea of mapping the human genome, over 30 years before the Human
Genome Project was established.
McKusick, a graduate of Johns Hopkins (M.D. 1946), spent his entire career there and founded
the Division of Medical Genetics in 1957, the first research center and clinic of its kind. In
1969 he published the 1st edition of his
book "Mendelian Inheritance of Man",
one of the most comprehensive collections of inherited disease genes. In 2002, McKusick received the
highest scientific honor in the U.S., the National Medal of Science.
1971 -- NASDAQ Stock Market was founded.
NASDAQ Stock Market was founded as the world's first electronic stock market by the
National Association of Securities Dealers. The NASDAQ system, created by the Bunker Ramos
Corp. allowed the financial community, for the first time, to determine which market
offered the best price on a given security.
1973 -- Recombinant DNA was perfected.
The modern era of biotechnology begins when Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of
California at San Francisco successfully recombined ends of bacterial DNA after splicing a toad gene in between. They
called their accomplishment recombinant DNA, but the media preferred the term genetic engineering.
(Photo: Courtesy Stanley Cohen)
Boyer and Cohen's achievement was an advancement upon the techniques developed by Paul Berg, in 1972,
for inserting viral DNA into bacterial DNA. Cohen's research at Stanford was with plasmids—the nonchromosomal, circular
units of DNA found in, and exchanged by, bacteria, while Boyer's was restriction enzymes produced by bacteria to counter
invasion by bacteriophages.
1975 -- Monoclonal antibodies were produced.
In 1975, Georges Köhler and César Milstein, showed how monoclonal antibodies can be generated by
isolating individual fused myeloma cells.
Genentech was founded by venture
capitalist Robert Swanson and biochemist Dr. Herbert Boyer. In the early 1970s, Boyer
and geneticist Stanley Cohen at Stanford University pioneered recombinant DNA technology.
Within a few short years Swanson and Boyer invented a new industry - biotechnology.
In 1980, Genentech issued its Initial Public Offering (IPO) and raised $35 million
with an offering that jumped from $35 a share to a high of $88 after less than an
hour on the market. This event was one of the largest stock run-ups ever, and that
event set the stage for future biotechnolgy industry offerings.
1977 -- First human gene was cloned.
Walter Gilbert induced bacteria to synthesize insulin and interferon, and Frederick Sanger
published the complete sequence of phage FX174. The 1980 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry was
awarded jointly to Frederick Sanger and Walter Gilbert for "for their contributions concerning
the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids, and to Paul Berg for his fundamental
studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA.
1980 -- U.S. Supreme Court ruled man-made organism patentable.
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds five-to-four the patentability of
genetically altered organisms, opening the door to greater patent protection for any
modified life forms.
In 1972, Mohan Chakrabarty, a microbiologist, filed a patent
application, assigned to the General Electric Co. for a human-made genetically engineered
bacterium capable of breaking down multiple components of crude oil. Because of this
property, which is possessed by no naturally occurring bacteria, Chakrabarty's invention
was believed to have significant value for the treatment of oil spills. The application
asserted 36 claims related to Chakrabarty's invention of "a bacterium from the genus
Pseudomonas containing therein at least two stable energy-generating plasmids, each of
said plasmids providing a separate hydrocarbon degradative pathway.
Opinions: Chief Justice Warren Burger delivered the opinion
of the Court, in which justices Potter Stewart, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist, and
John Paul Stevens joined. William Brennan filed a dissenting opinion, in which Byron
White, Thurgood Marshall, and Lewis Powell joined.
1980 -- Bayh-Dole Act provided for university technology transfer.
H.R.6933, Public Law: 96-517, December 12, 1980. A bill to amend title
35 of the United States Code. This Act known as the Bayh-Dole Act provided for the legal transfer of research and
technology originating from U.S. universities and federal laboratories to private
companies for commercialization. Technology transfer offices are now common in
universities and federal laboratories and are the technology foundation for numerous
biotechnology and medical device companies. (Photos: Birch Bayh and
Robert Dole courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office)
1983 -- Orphan Drug Act was created.
The Orphan Drug Act
encouraged the research and development of drugs for rare or "orphan" diseases defined as a disease or condition that
affects fewer than 200,000 Americans.
The Orphan Drug Act provided for financial incentives to help companies recover the cost of developing much needed
therapies for small patient populations. The FDA estimates that more than 11 million patients in the U.S. and millions
more around the world, have benefited from this legislation.
1984 -- Alec Jeffreys and technician Vicky Wilson discovered minisatellites leading to the development of genetic fingerprinting.
In 1984, geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys, and technician Vicky Wilson at the University of
Leicester in England discovered minisatellites leading to the development of genetic fingerprinting.
The new technology was first used in 1985 to resolve a disputed immigration case
that confirmed the identity of a British boy whose family was from Ghana.
In 1988, Colin Pitchfork was convicted of murdering two girls in 1983 and 1986 in
Narborough, Leicestershire, England after his DNA samples matched semen samples
taken from the two dead girls. Jeffreys' work in this case convicted the
killer, but also exonerated Richard Buckland, a suspect who otherwise might
have spent his life in prison. In 1994, Jeffreys' was knighted by Queen
Elizabeth II for his services to genetics.
1990 -- Human Genome Project was established.
The U.S. Human Genome
Project was established -- a 13-year effort coordinated by the U.S.
Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. The main goals of the
Human Genome Project were to provide a complete and accurate sequence of the 3 billion
DNA base pairs that make up the human genome and to find all of the estimated 20,000 to
25,000 human genes. The project, originally planned to last 15 years, was expected
to be completed by 2003 due to rapid technological advances.
1991 -- LifeSciences British Columbia (BC Biotech) was founded.
LifeSciences British Columbia , formerly known as BC Biotech
and founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit, non-government, industry association that supports and represents the
life sciences community of British Columbia through leadership, facilitation of investment and partnering,
advocacy, and promotion of world-class science and industry.
1993 -- Kary B. Mullis was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
PCR allows scientists to quickly replicate small strands of DNA, greatly simplifying
the sequencing and cloning of genes. First presented in 1985, PCR has become one of
the most widespread methods of analyzing DNA. Notably, PCR requires the heat-stable enzyme
Taq (Thermus Aquaticus) which originated from hot springs located in Yellowstone
1993 -- Michael Smith was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1981, Dr. Smith joined with Ben Hall and Earl Davie of the University of Washington, to be a
scientific co-founder of Seattle-based ZymoGenetics. Beginning in 1988, ZymoGenetics served as the primary
U.S. discovery arm of Novo Nordisk, contributing to the development of several of Novo Nordisk's current marketed
products and pipeline candidates. In 2000, the company was spun off as a public company. In 2010, Bristol-Myers
Squibb acquired ZymoGenetics after entering into a strategic collaboration to co-develop PEG-Interferon lambda.
1993 -- The CRISPR-Cas microbial adaptive immune system and its function was discovered.
In 1993, Francisco Mojica at the University of Alicante in Spain was the first researcher
to characterize what is now called a CRISPR locus (Clustered regularly-interspaced short
palindromic repeats). In 2000, Mojica recognized that what had been reported as
disparate repeat sequences actually shared a common set of features, now known to be
hallmarks of CRISPR sequences (the term CRISPR was coined through correspondence with
Ruud Jansen, who first used the term in print in 2002).
In 2005 Mojica reported that these sequences matched snippets from the genomes of
bacteriophage. This finding led him to hypothesize, correctly, that CRISPR
is an adaptive immune system. Another group, working independently, published similar
1993 -- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) was founded.
Organization BIO is the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology
companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations
across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved
in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial
and environmental biotechnology products.
1998 -- Vancouver Prostate Centre was founded.
Vancouver Prostate Centre, founded in 1998,
has become Canada's leading prostate cancer research and treatment centres. The mission of the Vancouver
Prostate Centre is to foster the paradigm of team-driven translational health research to discover
molecular mechanisms of cancer progression and therapeutic resistance, and to use this
information to develop new services and products that reduce suffering, improve survival for patients
with cancer and promote regional growth of biotechnology. Today, more than 2,500 patients are seen
annually by the Centre.
To facilitate development of the patented therapies through clinical trial, Dr. Martin
Gleave, Director of Clinical Research at the Prostate Centre, founded OncoGeneX Technologies Inc.,
an early stage biotechnology company using the Prostate Centre's lead compound.
A second Vancouver-based functional genomics company, Aquinox Pharmaceuticals, was founded in 1999
to commercialize novel, proprietary functional genomics platform technologies that provide tools aimed at
enhancing the speed and efficiency of discovery and validation of targets for drug- and antibody-based human
1999 -- Canada's Michael Smith Genome Science Centre was founded.
In 1999, Michael Smith, recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, founded the Genome Sciences Centre in British Columbia. The Michael Smith
Genome Sciences Centre has a primary mandate to develop and deploy genomics technologies
in support of life sciences research, and in particular cancer research.
The Genome Sciences Centre is one of fifteen research programs that operate as part
of the BC Cancer Research Centre. The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health
Services Authority, provides a province-wide cancer control program for the residents
of British Columbia. Additional support is provided by funds raised by the BC
Cancer Foundation for cancer research.
In 2003, researchers at the centre were the first to sequence the SARS genome, an important
step in the development of a potential treatment and vaccine.
2000 -- Genome British Columbia was founded.
Genome British Columbia, founded in 2000,
is one of six Genome Canada centres across the country. Genome Canada is the primary funding and information resource
related to genomics and proteomics in Canada.
Genome British Columbia is a research organization that invests in and manages large-scale genomics and proteomics
research projects and science and technology platforms focused on areas of strategic importance such as human health,
forestry, fisheries, ethics, agriculture and the environment. By working collaboratively with all levels of government,
universities and industry, Genome BC is the catalyst for a vibrant, genomics-driven life sciences cluster with far reaching
social and economic benefits for the province and Canada.
2001 -- Human Genome Project draft sequence was published.
The February 16 issue of Science and February
15 issue of Nature contained the working draft of the human genome
sequence (U.S. Human Genome
Project). Nature papers included initial analysis of the descriptions of the sequence
generated by the publicly sponsored Human Genome Project, while Science publications focused
on the draft sequence reported by the private company, Celera Genomics.
2007 -- The National Institutes of Health established the Human Microbiome Project.
On Dec. 19, 2007, the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), a $150 million initiative, was established by the National
Institutes of Health with the mission of generating resources that would enable the comprehensive characterization of
the human microbiome and analysis of its role in human health and disease.
The HMP is the collection of all
the microorganisms living in association with the human body, including eukaryotes, archaea, bacteria and viruses.
Bacteria in an average human body number ten times more than human cells, for a total of about 1000 more genes
than are present in the human genome.
2008 -- British Columbia BioEvolution illustrates the technology origins of state's industry.
British Columbia BioEvolution -- a one-of-a-kind
genealogy chart that illustrates the "technology origins" of more than 100 firms and
non-profit research organizations that comprise the biotechnology and medical device
industry in the province of British Columbia.
Learn about the history of the life science industry in other states and provinces: