Timeline of medicines research

Many important events in medical research have occurred during the past 60 years, and it's been a period during which: 

  • The structure of DNA was worked out, opening the way for a detailed understanding of inherited diseases and their treatment
  • Transplantation became a practical alternative for treating end-stage organ failure
  • Interferon, the first of a family of naturally occurring molecules called cytokines, was isolated, named and introduced for therapeutic use
  • Advanced scanning techniques were developed that transformed the diagnosis and understanding of many human diseases
  • Monoclonal antibodies were discovered, enabling highly specific targeting of medicines and providing new types of medication for many diseases
  • Techniques for in vitro fertilisation were developed, bringing hope to many childless couples
  • Smallpox, a centuries-old scourge of mankind, was eradicated from the planet
  • AIDS emerged, and with it the discovery of a family of human viral pathogens called retroviruses, of which HIV is one, leading to entirely new medicines to contain it
  • The first gene therapy procedure was carried out, opening the way to treating serious inherited diseases
  • The human genome was sequenced, laying the foundations in the coming decades for the development of many treatments for major diseases.

Select a decade below to find out more about the key events in medical research over the past 60 years:

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