Gene Drive & Genetic Biocontrol Timeline

The first observations of the skewed inheritance patterns that are characteristic of what we now refer to as ‘gene drive’ were made by a Russian researcher.  The year was 1928 and he was studying a species of Drosophila – a fruitfly.  The first half of the 20th century saw the discovery of ‘jumping genes’.  These are now referred to as transposable elements.  They are a common, abundant and very diverse group of ‘gene drives’.   They achieve ‘drive’ by creating copies of themselves and inserting them randomly into chromosomes.  In the late 1950’s a type of ‘gene drive’ known as  ‘meiotic drive’ was discovered.  Scientists quickly realized that ‘meiotic drive’ might be used to control insect pests.   While notable and important research in the early 21st century is frequently cited as foundational to the history of ‘gene drive’, the timeline presented here illustrates that important ideas originated long before.  Only in the 21st century have the technical capabilities been available to readily create ‘gene drives’ in the laboratory.

Contemporary genetic biocontrol research and development, including gene drive, is a culmination of work beginning in the early 20th century. This collection of knowledge from the Virtual Institute’s knowledgebase highlights notable research in the history of genetic biocontrol technology, showing the depth and breadth this ‘field’ of genetics.

Note that ideas emerge in science before they appear in publications. This timeline is intended only to reflect ‘first to publish.’