Mar. 28, 2006 is a resource for the life science industry in the state of Oregon.

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Oregon BioHistory

Welcome to "Oregon BioHistory" a feature section that tells the story of the scientists,
institutions, political leaders, and significant events that are the foundation of the biotechnology
and medical device industries in the state of Oregon.

If you are aware of a notable event, person or accomplishment that we should include,
please send an e-mail to

1858 -- Corvallis academy (Oregon State University) established.

In 1858, Corvallis academy (Oregon State University) established in Corvallis. Oregon State University (OSU), a land grant university, was designated as Oregon's state-assisted agricultural college in 1868. Sea grant and space grant designation came later, making OSU one of only six universities to have all three titles.

1859 -- Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species."

Charles Darwin 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.

From 1831-1836, Darwin served as a naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle -- a British science expedition around the world. In South America Darwin discovered fossils of extinct animals that were similar to modern species, and on the Galapagos Islands, located west of Equador, he noticed many variations of plants and animals of the same general type as those in South America. Throughout the expedition Darwin studied plants and animals and collected specimens for further study.

Upon his return to London, Darwin conducted thorough research of his notes and specimens, and out of his study grew several related theories: evolution did occur; evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years; the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form through a branching process called "specialization."

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 biology.

1865 -- Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, presents his laws of heredity.

Gregor Mendel "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).

1872 -- Legislature establishes University of Oregon.

In 1872, The Legislature establishes the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene. The University of Oregon has a long tradition of interdisciplinary research, beginning with the establishment of the Institute of Molecular Biology in 1959.

1887 -- Marine Hospital Service Hygienic Laboratory (National Institutes of Health) founded.

National Institutes of Health 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.

The Biologics Control Act enacted in 1902 had major consequences for the Hygienic Laboratory. It charged the laboratory with regulating the production of vaccines and antitoxins, making it a regulatory agency four years before passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act. The danger posed by biological products that had emerged from bacteriologic discoveries resulted from their production in animals and their administration by injection. In 1901, thirteen children in St. Louis died after receiving diphtheria antitoxin contaminated with tetanus spores. This tragedy spurred Congress to pass the Biologics Control Act, and between 1903-1907 standards were established and licenses issued to pharmaceutical firms for making smallpox and rabies vaccines, diphtheria and tetanus antitoxins, and various other antibacterial antisera. (In 1972, responsibility for regulation of biologics was transferred to the Food and Drug Administration).

In 1912 MHS was reorganized, renamed the Public Health Service (PHS) and authorized to conduct research into noncontagious diseases and into the pollution of streams and lakes in the U.S. During World War I, the PHS attended primarily to sanitation of areas around military bases in the U.S., and when the 1918 influenza pandemic struck Washington, physicians from the laboratory were pressed into service treating patients in the District of Columbia because so many local doctors had fallen ill. In 1930, the Ransdell Act changed the name of the Hygienic Laboratory to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and authorized the establishment of fellowships for research into basic biological and medical problems. The roots of this act extended to 1918, when chemists who had worked with the Chemical Warfare Service in World War I sought to establish an institute in the private sector to apply fundamental knowledge in chemistry to problems of medicine. In 1937, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was created with sponsorship from every Senator in Congress, and was authorized to award grants to nonfederal scientists for research on cancer and to fund fellowships at NCI for young researchers.

During World War II, the NIH focused almost entirely on war-related problems. At the close of the war, PHS leaders guided through Congress the 1944 Public Health Service Act, which defined the shape of medical research in the post-war world. Two provisions were especially important: 1) In 1946 the NCI grants program was expanded to the entire NIH, and the program grew from just over $4 million in 1947, to more than $100 million in 1957, and to $1 billion in 1974. The entire NIH budget expanded from $8 million in 1947 to more than $1 billion in 1966, now fondly remembered as "the golden years" of NIH expansion. Accompanying growth in the grants program was the proliferation of new categorical institutes, and from 1946-1949, voluntary health organizations moved Congress to create institutes for research on mental health, dental diseases, and heart disease. In 1948, language in the National Heart Act made the name of the umbrella organization the National Institutes of Health. 2) The 1944 PHS Act authorized NIH to conduct clinical research, and after the war Congress provided funding to build a research hospital, now called the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The Center which opened in 1953 with 540 beds was designed to bring research laboratories into close proximity with hospital wards in order to promote productive collaboration between laboratory scientists and clinicians.

The NIH today, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research and is composed of 27 Institutes and Centers, providing leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.

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 America in a week and around the world in three months. In all, between 500,000 and 700,000 Americans --civilians and soldiers-- died from the influenza, more than were lost in World War I, II, and the Korean and Viet Nam wars combined.

Latest Findings: In September 2004, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a five-year, $12.5 million grant to five institutions that will collaborate to study genes constructed from 1918 flu-virus particles salvaged from the bodies of World War I soldiers and the exhumed Brevig Mission, Alaska resident. The Institutions include the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C.; Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York; Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the University of Washington. The ultimate goal is to use knowledge gained from the study to develop vaccines, influenza medications and diagnostic tests to prevent a similar influenza outbreak.

Suggested Reading:

America's Forgotten Pandemic
America's Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918

By Alfred W. Crosby.
Published by Cambridge University Press. 1990.
The Great Influenza
The Great Influenza

By John Barry.
Published by Viking Press. 2004.

1933 -- Thomas Hunt Morgan awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his chromosome theory of heredity.

Thomas Hunt Morgan 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.

In 1928, Thomas Hunt Morgan transferred to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to organize work in biology, and five years later he was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his chromosome theory of heredity. (Photo: © The Nobel Foundation)

1934 -- William Perry Murphy awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine.

William Perry Murphy (A.B., University of Oregon, 1914) shared the 1934 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning liver therapy in cases of anaemia. (Photo: © The Nobel Foundation)

William Perry Murphy

1947 -- Transistor invented at AT&T;'s Bell Laboratories.

John Bardeen William Shockley Walter Brattain 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.

Transistors have become an invisible technology that is part of almost every electronic device. Every major information age innovation was made possible by the transistor and its application can be found all around us.

Brattain received his B.S. degree from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and a M.A. degree from the University of Oregon. (Photos: © The Nobel Foundation)

1953 -- Double helix structure of DNA revealed.

James D. Watson Francis Crick Maurice Wilkins 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.

Rosalind Franklin, whose work contributed to the discovery, died before this date and the rules do not allow a Nobel Prize to be awarded posthumously. (Photos: © The Nobel Foundation)

Suggested Reading:

The Double Helix
The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. By James D. Watson. Published by Touchstone Books. 2001.
DNA - The Secret to Life. By James D. Watson, Andrew Berry. Published by Knopf. 2003.
Genes, Girls, and Gamow
Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix. By James D. Watson. Published by Vintage. 2003.
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA. By Brenda Maddox. Published by Perennial. 2003.
The Third Man of the Double Helix
The Third Man of the Double Helix: The Autobiography of Maurice Wilkins. By Maurice Wilkins. Published by Oxford University Press. 2003.

1954 -- Linus Carl Pauling awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Linus Carl Pauling Linus Carl Pauling (B.Sc., Chemical Engineering, Oregon State University, 1922) awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.

Linus Carl Pauling, born in Portland, OR, attended elementary and high schools in the towns of Condon and Portland, and entered Oregon State College in 1917, receiving the degree of B.Sc. in chemical engineering in 1922. From 1919-1920 he served as a teacher of quantitative analysis at Oregon State and was subsequently appointed a Teaching Fellow in Chemistry in the California Institute of Technology. In 1963, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (Photo: © The Nobel Foundation)

1958 -- Integrated circuit invented.

Photo of Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit. 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)

1960 -- Oregon Regional Primate Research Center founded.

In 1960, National Institute of Health grants allow the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon to acquire property and begin construction of Oregon Regional Primate Research Center (ORPRC).

Designated the the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) in 2002, the center conducts basic and applied biomedical research in three fields: Division of Reproductive Sciences, Division of Neuroscience, and the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology. As one of eight national primate centers, ORPRC is a resource, both local and international, for scientists and academic and research institutions.

1961 -- President John F. Kennedy expands U.S. Space Program

President John F. Kennedy expands 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 of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration)

1966-97 -- Federal revenues flow into Oregon under political leadership of U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield.

Senator Mark Hatfield Mark Hatfield served in the State Legislature from 1951-1957; was Oregon secretary of state from 1957-1959. He was elected governor in 1958 and re-elected in 1962, becoming Oregon's first two-term governor in the 20th century. Hatfield served in the U.S. Senate from 1966-1997 where he focused on health, education, research and social service programs. In 1995, Senator Hatfield received the Albert Lasker Public Service Award "For energetic leadership and enduring advocacy in support of biomedical research."

Senator Hatfield's support of medical research related initiatives remains a foundation of the biotechnology industry in Oregon, as well as nationally. Examples include the Hatfield Award for Clinical Research established by the Alzheimer’s Association to honor his long commitment to Alzheimer’s disease research, especially clinical investigations; the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport; and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center opened in 2004.

The new NIH Center is home to patient care facilities and research labs, and connects to the existing Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center established in 1953. Together, the Magnuson and Hatfield centers form the NIH Clinical Center, the world's largest clinical research complex, providing patient care as well as the environment clinical researchers need to advance clinical science. (Photo: Mark Hatfield courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office)

1969 -- Man walks on the moon.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk 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.

1971 -- NASDAQ Stock Market founded.

Nasdaq, founded February 8, 1971, is now the largest U.S. electronic stock market. With approximately 3,300 companies, it lists more companies and, on average, trades more shares per day than any other U.S. market. NASDAQ is home to companies that are leaders across all areas of business including technology, retail, communications, financial services, transportation, media, biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical.

Suggested Reading:

NASDAQ: A History of the Market That Changed the World. By Mark Ingebretsen. Published by Prima Lifestyles. 2002.

1973 -- Recombinant DNA perfected.

Stanley Cohen

The modern era of biotechnology begins when Stanley Cohen of Stanford University and Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco successfully recombine ends of bacterial DNA after splicing a toad gene in between. They call their accomplishment recombinant DNA, but the media prefers using the term genetic engineering. (Photo: Courtesy Stanley Cohen)

1974 -- University of Oregon Health Sciences Center formed.

In 1974, the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center is formed as an independent institution under the direction of the Oregon State System of Higher Education. The schools of Dentistry, Medicine and Nursing are brought together to create this new center. The center, located in Portland, becomes Oregon's only academic health center and one of 125 in the nation. In 1981, the institution is renamed Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU).

1974 -- Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

Jacob Javits Pete Williams

John N. Erlenborn, the ranking Republican on the House Committee, was responsible for bringing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to a floor vote, and is one of the ERISA’s "Founding Fathers." Together with Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY), Senator Pete Williams (D-NJ) and Congressman John Dent (D-PA), Erlenborn crafted provisions and participated in negotiations that were instrumental to the enactment of ERISA which was - and remains - the single most important legislation governing employee benefit plans in the United States providing an important source of financial investment for the stock market. (Photos: Jacob Javits and Pete Williams courtesy U.S. Senate Historical Office).

1975 -- Monoclonal antibodies produced.

Niels Jerne Georges Köhler César Milstein In 1975, Georges Köhler and César Milstein, showed how monoclonal antibodies can be generated by isolating individual fused myeloma cells.

The 1984 Nobel Laureate in Medicine was awarded jointly to: Niels Jerne, Georges Köhler and César Milstein for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies. (Photos: © The Nobel Foundation)

1976 -- Genentech, founder of the biotechnology industry, established.

In 1976, 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. Excited by the breakthrough, Swanson called Boyer who agreed to give the young entrepreneur 10 minutes of his time. Swanson's enthusiasm for the technology resulted in a three hour meeting and at its conclusion, Genentech was born.

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. The event was one of the largest stock run-ups ever, and that event set the stage for future biotechnolgy industry offerings.

Genentech was initially broadly focused in three areas including food processing, industrial chemicals, and human health care. In 1982, Eli Lilly & Co. which had acquired worldwide rights to Genenetch's recombinant human insulin (1978) received FDA approval to market the product -- the first biotechnology therapeutic to reach the marketplace.

Beginning in 1983, Genentech became solely focused on human therapeutics and diagnostics, and in 1985, Genentech received approval from FDA to market its first product, Protropin® (somatrem for injection) growth hormone for children with growth hormone deficiency — the first recombinant pharmaceutical product to be manufactured and marketed by a biotechnology company. In 1990, Genentech and Roche Holding Ltd. of Basel, Switzerland completed a $2.1 billion merger. Today, Genentech is among the world's leading biotech companies with multiple protein-based products on the market for serious or life-threatening medical conditions.

1977 -- First human gene cloned.

Walter Gilbert Frederick Sanger

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. (Photos: © The Nobel Foundation)

1980 -- U.S. Supreme Court ruled man-made organism patentable.

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, 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 provides for university technology transfer.

Birch Bayh, Senator, Indiana Robert Dole, Senator, Kansas

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)

1982 -- George Streisinger clones the first vertebrate -- a zebrafish.

George Streisinger at the University of Oregon (UO) clones the first vertebrate -- a zebrafish. The UO houses the Zebrafish International Resource Center, a central distribution center for zebrafish worldwide.

1990 -- Human Genome Project established.

Human Genome Project Logo 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 project, originally planned to last 15 years, was expected to be completed by 2003 due to rapid technological advances.

Project Goals
  • Identify all the estimated 80,000 genes in human DNA,
  • Determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical bases that make up human DNA,
  • Store this information in databases,
  • Develop tools for data analysis, and
  • Address the ethical, legal, and social issues that may arise from the project.

1993 -- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) founded.

Biotechnology Industry Organization Biotechnology Industry Organization is the world's largest organization to serve and represent the biotechnology industry. BIO's leadership and service-oriented guidance have helped advance the industry and bring the benefits of biotechnology to people everywhere.

1993 -- Kary B. Mullis awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Kary B. Mullis of La Jolla, CA and a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D) was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for contributions to the developments of methods within DNA-based chemistry, specifically for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. (Photo: © The Nobel Foundation)

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 National Park.

Kary B. Mullis

2001 -- Human Genome Project draft sequence published.

Human Genome Project Logo 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.

Other Resources

  • Suggested Science Education Reading -- A list of select biotechnology and other science related books to help you understand the world of biotechnology.
  • Suggested CEO Reading -- A list of select books recommended by some of the nation's leading chief executive officers from the biotechnology, medical technology and related industry.

Other State BioHistories

Other Related Life Science History Resources

If you are aware of a notable event, person or accomplishment that we should include,
please send an e-mail to


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