Koala

A brief history of DNA

A look at some DNA milestones

1953: James Watson and Francis Crick reveal the structure of DNA as a double-stranded helix. They acknowledge the importance of ideas and data from Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.

1956: Human chromosome number established as 46, overturning the previously accepted figure of 48.

1961: Marshall Nirenberg and Johann Matthaei read the first DNA ‘word’, three letters that code for a single amino acid in a protein. The rest of the genetic code is worked out within five years.

1977: Fred Sanger and Walter Gilbert develop efficient methods for DNA sequencing. Sanger’s team sequences the first DNA genome, that of the bacterium-infecting virus phi X174.

1981: Human mitochondrial genome sequence published by Fred Sanger and colleagues.

1990: After some years of discussion, the Human Genome Project – to map, then sequence, the entire complement of human DNA – gets underway.

1995: Genome of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae published, with 1.8 million base pairs (the first genome of a non-viral organism to be sequenced).

1996: Yeast genome published, containing 6,000 genes (the first eukaryotic cell genome to be sequenced).

1999: Fruit-fly genome published.

1999: First human chromosome sequence, number 22, published.

2000: UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton announce a ‘working draft’ of the human genome, produced by researchers working in the public and private sectors.

2001: The international Human Genome Project and private company Celera Genomics publish two independent drafts of the human genome sequence.

2002: Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium completes first draft.

2002: Plasmodium genome sequenced, providing information that should be useful for understanding malaria, developing a vaccine and finding new drug targets.

2008: Launch of the 1000 Genomes project, intended to produce the best catalogue of human genetic variation to date.

2009: Researchers from Germany announce that they have sequenced the entire genome of a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal.

2010: The draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome published.

2012: 1,092 human genomes sequenced as part of the 1000 Genomes Project are described in the journal ‘Nature’.

2012: Western gorilla and bonobo genome sequences published.

2013: Genomics England launched by the Department of Health, aiming to sequence 100,000 human genomes.

2013: Koala genome sequence published.

2014: 234 cattle genome sequences completed, part of the 1000 Bull Genomes Project.

2014: Draft sequence of the bread wheat genome published.

2014: Cost of sequencing a human genome falls to below $1,000.

Lead image:

The koala genome was sequenced in 2013.

Alberto Sánchez Domingo/Flickr CC BY NC ND

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Genes, Genomes and Health’ in January 2010 and reviewed and updated in December 2014.

Topics:
Genetics and genomics, History
Issue:
Genes, Genomes and Health
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development