Top 10 Most Influential Projects in Biotech
1 Human Genome Project
As biology's first “big science” collaboration, the international Human Genome Project mapped and sequenced the entire human genome, paving the way for unparalleled innovations in medicine, biotech and life sciences.
2 First IVF Baby
More than 8 million people can now trace their origins to this scientific breakthrough, which began with a single in vitro fertilization (IVF) birth four decades ago. By 2100, IVF could be responsible for 3.5 percent of the global population.
This relatively simple gene-editing technique carries world-changing implications: By allowing scientists to precisely change an organism's DNA on the spot, CRISPR could eradicate inherited diseases or cure existing ones. Since its inception in 2012, CRISPR has fueled much controversy too, as teams look to modify everything from crops to mosquitos. That discussion reached a fever pitch this year after a scientist in China claimed to have created the world's first babies genetically edited with CRISPR.
4 Genetic Fingerprinting
Identifying individuals based on hair, blood or other biological samples may seem a given now. But it's only possible because of this breakthrough science—which also has led to new findings in cancer and genetic conditions. A University of Leicester professor introduced the science in 1984 after years of research, and it was first put into practice to solve a two-year case to determine whether a mother and son were indeed just that.
After 23andMe released its personal genomics kit, Time named it Invention of the Year in 2008. Sticker shock kept many customers away until 2012, when the company lowered the price to US$99. After that, 23andMe became mainstream, sparking a wave of acolytes—and controversy. Millions have since used DNA testing kits to discover both long-lost relatives and their genetic risk for a variety of health conditions. Next up: tapping into the growing DNA library to create bespoke drugs.
In 1996, this headline-stealing sheep was the first mammal to be cloned from the cell of an adult, kick-starting a tsunami of scientific interest and international debates about the ethics of cloning.
7 Engineered Organ
Created in 1999 by hand from patients’ own cells by Dr. Anthony Atala and his research team, the first laboratory-grown bladders successfully implanted into patients laid the groundwork for the future of 3D-printed organ development and use by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine scientists.
8 Beyond Meat Burger
Beyond Meat was banking on the growing number of people ditching their carnivorous ways. And it worked. Developed in a lab by a team of scientists, chemists, and tech and health experts, this protein became the first plant-based burger to be sold in the meat aisle in 2016. With a US$10 billion market cap as of June 2019, the company behind the burger has its products in restaurant chains around the world.
9 Golden Rice
Golden Rice has been a symbol of the global debate over genetically modified organisms ever since professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer completed an eight-year project to develop the food in 2000. Supporters, including more than 100 Nobel laureates, applaud the rice because it's genetically modified to address vitamin A deficiency, which affects an estimated 250 million children globally. Some critics, however, claim Golden Rice just opens the door to more profitable genetically engineered crops.
Developed by Novartis, this treatment for B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia became the first gene therapy treatment to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017. Though the drug's cost remains high, it has paved the way for more gene therapy treatments.