The History of Restriction Enzymes

The first destination is Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York, with a gathering of scientists who discovered that certain bacteria and algae had an interesting immune system. They produced enzymes which would cut DNA at specific sites, and that would protect them from foreign DNA. The site specific enzymes would not harm the organism’s DNA since that site was not present in the host.

Those enzymes could be isolated and purified, and could then be used to cut DNA into fragments, and then another enzyme called a ligase could re-join DNA fragments into unique sequences. This was the basis of genetic engineering and cloning. When I first started Promega in 1978 I created a library of these enzymes, about 20 at first, and this was the basis for the start of the business.

So tonight and tomorrow, the people from those days including Nobel prize winners, will get together and tell stories of the “old days”. It is a unique historic moment, bringing together the discoverers and inventors who did this pioneering work so many years ago and honoring the past, recognizing those people who helped to create an industry and establish biotechnology.

One thought on “The History of Restriction Enzymes

  1. It’s not everyday you can look back as a collective group and reminisce. To know you have made an impact must be a humbling and truly gratifying experience. What a great way to start this month long journey!

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