1974 Press Release

A press release dated 5/20/74 from Stanford University Medical Center.

A technique for the production of new genetic species that may eventually lead to the synthesis of antibiotics or insulin by common bacteria, and possibly the correction of certain hereditary defects has been reported by Stanford University and University of California scientists.
The technique involves the introduction of genetic material from one species into the cells of another.
Already it has been used by Stanford scientists to create functioning species of bacteria that do not exist in nature.
The scientists anticipate that within the next several years it will result in the construction of new biological species useful in medicine and agriculture.
Specific genes may be introduced into the cells of patients to cure hereditary diseases, or inserted into plants to create desirable new types, they said.
Genes are biological units that transmit hereditary traits and govern the development of living cells.
Use of the technique to combine genes from unrelated bacteria was reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by Stanford researches — Dr. Stanley N. Cohen, associate professor of medicine and head of the division of clinical pharmacology, and research assistant Annie C.Y. Chang.
“By constructing functional molecules in which genes from different species are joined, new types of bacteria are formed,” Cohen said.
The basic method for constructing new functional genetic combinations was reported earlier by Cohen and Chang, in collaboration with Dr.s Herbert W. Boyer and Robert B. Helling of the University of California, Dan Francisco.
Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Stanford’s Nobel prize-winning geneticist, called the new techniques “a major tool in genetic analysis.”
“It does at the molecualr lefel what cell fusion does at the cellular level, and cross-breeding does at the level of the entire organism,” he said.
Lederberg believes the technique will have important applications in medical diagnosis, the study of the nature of cancer cells, and the study of gene control mechanisms or what turns a gene on and off.
“Finally,” he said, “it may completely change the pharmaceutical industry’s approach to making biological elements such as insulin and antibiotics.”

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