Zbigniew Janowicz and Cornelis Hollenberg (Rhein Biotech, Düsseldorf/Germany) developed a process for producing foreign proteins in Hansenula yeasts, a key component in the production of hepatitis B vaccines. The new technology is now an acknowledged standard, helping to combat the worldwide spread of hepatitis B, which according to WHO estimates infects around a third of the world’s population.
Stephen P.A. Fodor, Michael C. Pirrung, J. Leighton Read and Lubert Styer (Affymax Research Institute, Palo Alto/USA) while working for the Dutch company Affymax revolutionised biotechnology with their invention of the DNA chip. They succeeded in storing vast amounts of biological data on a small glass chip (polymer synthesis). Today, as a result, a great many experiments can be conducted at the same time on a single DNA chip. The invention is primarily used to detect genetically determined disease.
Peter Grünberg (Jülich Research Centre/Germany) identified the giant magnetoresistance effect (GMR), which allows for a fifty-fold increase in the usable storage density of hard disks. The fruits of his research in information technology are now to be found in nearly all commercially available PCs, digital cameras and MP3 players.
Larry Gold and Craig Tuerk (NeXstar Pharmaceuticals, Boulder/USA) with their SELEX technology invented an important screening process used in biochemistry to find unique oligonucleotides capable of binding to specific proteins that cause disease. This pioneering invention led to an aptamer or drug called Macugen which has eye treatment applications. It is hoped that SELEX technology will also result in drugs for cancer therapy and prove useful in the fight against AIDS.
John Starrett, Joanne Bronson, John Martin, Muzammil Mansuri and David Tortulani succeeded in producing innovative prodrugs of phosphonates, which do not unleash their full effect until transformed in the human body. They are due to be effectively deployed against viral infections and in tumour therapy. The invention is based on research done at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague.