Skip to content

Synthetic Biology Timeline


The first recombinant DNA molecules are produced by combining DNA from more than one organism.


Geneticist Waclaw Szybalski coins the term “synthetic biology.”


Frederick Sanger and colleagues develop a technique for determining the precise order of nucleotides within DNA. Sanger sequencing would continue to be used over the subsequent decades.


The first patent for a genetically modified organism – a bacterium designed to break down crude oil – is awarded.


Automation improves the speed at which DNA can be sequenced.


The National Institutes of Health launches the Human Genome Project to sequence the first human genome.

April 2003

The Human Genome Project is completed.

November 2003

The first synthetic virus is created in just two weeks.


New sequencing methods that are cheaper, faster and more efficient than Sanger sequencing — so-called “next-generation” sequencing — begin to emerge.


The first synthetic bacterial genome is created by researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute.


The first artificial self-replicating cell, known as Synthia, is created by scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute.


The first fully functional synthetic yeast chromosome is created by Jef Boeke and his team. The Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project is founded to synthesize the entire yeast genome.


Genome Project-Write launches (initially under the name “Human Genome-Project Write”).


Five out of 16 yeast chromosomes are replaced with artificial ones, completing more than one-third of the yeast genome.

February 2018

The fastest genetic diagnosis using genome sequencing is delivered in just 19.5 hours by scientists at the Rady Children’s Institute for Genome Medicine.