Towards the first recombinant drug

Towards the first recombinant drug


Rossana De Lorenzi and Cristina Gritti
translated by Daniela Ruffell

Available in English Available in German Available in Italian

16 years and up Classroom Activity Computer activity Wetlab activity Creative commons


The discovery and isolation of insulin in 1921, by Banting and Best, paved the way for the development of a therapy which has saved the life of many diabetes patients. Insulin was the first protein to be sequenced in 1951, marking an important milestone in molecular biology. In 1976, insulin became the first recombinant drug obtained using newly developed genetic engineering techniques to be used for therapy in humans. Five researchers have earned Nobel Prizes for research related to insulin. This activity follows the pharmaceutical history of insulin using IT tools. Students are guided through the world of protein databases, searching for the protein sequence of human insulin and sequences from other species. The sequences are compared to highlight sequence homologies and possible phylogenetic connections between species. Based on these comparisons, it is possible to determine which animal is best suited for the extraction of the hormone to treat human diabetes.


Insulin Module

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16 years and up    from 16 years up

Classroom Activity    Classroom Activity

Computer Activity    Computer Activity

Wetlab Activity    Wetlab Activity

Creative Commons    Creative Commons