Getting personal with DNA

This year Sagentia is celebrating its 30th anniversary. To mark the occasion the team takes a look at some of the key trends in the last three decades and how these breakthroughs in science and technology have impacted the way we live and work today. In this second of a series of articles, we look at the way our understanding of DNA, genes and the human genome has improved over the last thirty years and has paved the way to precision forensics, medical diagnostics, and medicine.

Early precision methods

Unbelievably it was only as far back as 1985, (the year before Sagentia’s inauguration as Scientific Generics) that Professor Sir Alec John Jeffreys had what he calls his ‘eureka’ moment and developed a method for DNA profiling. By being able to decide whether genetic material comes from a particular individual, its subsequent impact has been huge - not only in identifying and prosecuting criminals for some of the nastiest crimes but also in helping to resolve paternity and immigration disputes. Jeffreys effectively developed a method to identify people from repeated DNA motifs that occur (almost uniquely) in different individuals.

dna strand

This breakthrough moment occurred at about the same time as another key historical moment in this area – the arrival of polymerase chain reaction diagnostic (PCR) tests. Our latest article tracks the emergence of PCR for amplifying small amounts of DNA and the birth of the human genome project. It then goes on to look at how next-generation sequencing has given rise to targeted treatments for specific patient sub-categories and explores what this might mean for drug innovation and precision medicine.

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