University of California – San Francisco

In 1974, UCSF scientists co-discovered recombinant DNA techniques, the fundamental first step in the creation of the biotechnology industry. (Herbert Boyer, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics, UCSF School of Medicine. Boyer is a co-founder of Genentech, one of the first, now one of the largest and most successful biotech companies.)

In 1976, UCSF scientists developed prenatal tests for sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia. (Y.W. Kan, MD, professor of laboratory medicine, UCSF School of Medicine.)

In 1977, UCSF scientists developed liposomes, microscopic sacs that can safely transport drugs within the body. (Demetrios Papahadjopoulos, Ph.D., professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, School of Medicine.)

In 1977, UCSF scientists isolated the gene for insulin, leading to the mass production of genetically engineered insulin to treat diabetes. (William Rutter, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics, UCSF School of Medicine. Rutter is also a co-founder of Chiron, one of the first and most successful biotech companies

In 19xx, patented a simple, cost-effective way to manufacture human proteins in yeast for therapeutic purposes. (Ira Herskowitz, PhD, professor of genetics in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF School of Medicine

In 1979, UCSF scientists developed a cochlear implant device that enables the deaf to hear. (Michael Merzenich, PhD, professor and vice chair of otolaryngology, Robert Schindler, MD, professor of otolaryngology, and Robin Michelson, MD, professor of otolaryngology (deceased), UCSF School of Medicine.

In 1979, UCSF scientists cloned the gene for human growth hormone, setting the stage for genetically engineered human growth hormone. (John Baxter, MD, professor of medicine, UCSF School of Medicine

In 1980, UCSF scientists patented a drug to compensate for the absence of the lung coating surfactant in infants born with immature lungs, revolutionizing treatment for premature infants and significantly reducing infant mortality rates. (John Clements, MD, professor of pulmonary biology, UCSF School of Medicine

1981, UCSF scientists conducted the first successful corrective procedure on a baby still in the mother’s womb, pioneering the clinical specialty of fetal diagnosis and in utero treatment. (Michael Harrison, MD, professor of surgery, UCSF School of Medicine

In 1983, UCSF scientists co-discovered HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. (Jay Levy, MD, professor of hematology and oncology, School of Medicine

In 1985, UCSF scientists co-discovered telomerase, a novel enzyme that is now a central focus of study as a target for treating cancer and age-related and degenerative disorders. (Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, UCSF School of Medicine

In 1997, UCSF scientists discovered that gene activity can be manipulated to alter lifespan, evidenced by research showing that changes in a single gene in the roundworm more than doubled the animal’s life span. (Cynthia Kenyon, PhD, professor of biochemistry, UCSF School of Medicine

In 1989, J. Michael Bishop, MD, and Harold Varmus, MD, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology, UCSF School of Medicine, won the prize for discovering proto-oncogenes, normal genes that they showed have the potential to convert to cancer genes. The discovery transformed the way that scientists look at cancer and has led to new strategies for detection and treatment of the disease

In 1997, Stanley Prusiner, MD, professor of neurology and director of the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, won the prize for his discovery of the prion, a novel infectious pathogen that causes a group of fatal neurodegenerative diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease. The discovery could lead to insights into more common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s diseases, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.

A UCSF scientist was the first to isolate precursor cells from mouse embryos – and coined the term embryonic stem cells. This seminal advance, made in 1981, laid the groundwork for current worldwide research on the use of human embryonic stem cells to treat disease. (The discovery was made by UCSF scientist Gail Martin, PhD, professor of anatomy, UCSF School of Medicine.)
UCSF, a pioneer in the field of embryonic stem cell research, is one of only two academic institutions in the nation that derived human embryonic stem cells that qualified for inclusion on the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Registry, in 2001. (The work was led by Roger Pedersen, PhD, professor emeritus, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, UCSF School of Medicine.) The lab began distributing one of these cell lines to scientists around the world in 2002, and expects to begin distributing the second cell line shortly. UCSF researchers are working to derive additional embryonic stem cell lines, under scientific conditions that could make them useful for clinical applications. The goal of studying human embryonic stem cells is to determine whether they could be used to treat such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as spinal cord injury.