Invention of the “Gene Machine”
A Breakthrough in Genetic Engineering: Invention of the “Gene Machine”
Prior to 1980, synthesizing a strand of DNA only 10 units long was an incredible undertaking, requiring three to six months of a skilled chemists’ time. The work of Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, however, changed the face of recombinant DNA technology – an area unavoidable by most chemists, and all biochemists, microbiologists, and geneticists.
A professor at McGill University, Ogilvie created the first automated machine that was capable of synthesizing DNA. Advances in nucleic acid chemistry allowed for the quick and selective addition of nucleotides to a growing DNA chain. As a result, a ten-unit strand could be produced in a matter of hours when it had previously taken months. The success of this technology led to commercialization of the product, and six years later, was able to synthesize not only DNA but RNA as well – the genetic messenger of all living organisms.
The invention of Ogilvie’s “Gene Machine” had major implications worldwide, which are still being felt today. At present, large strands of genetic material can be produced in a number of minutes as opposed to part of a year. Having synthetic genes readily available changed the world of genetic engineering, which consequently opening up opportunities for downstream applications such as mutagenesis, DNA sequencing, probing, and cloning.
Despite the fact that Ogilvie’s technology has rapidly evolved, the impact of his work is still being felt
around the world, affecting areas of biology, biotechnology, genetics, and medicine, to name only a select