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1900 : When 25 was “Middle Age”

A child born in the United States this year could expect to live until only 1947. With no medications available to treat them, infectious diseases like pneumonia, influenza and tuberculosis are leading causes of death.

1918 : Flu sweep the world

The worst pandemic since the Black Death sweeps the world, killing 21 million people, more than 1% of the world's population and twice as many people as died in WWI.  The “Spanish influenza” began in Asia and wiped out coffin supplies in many cities.

1921 : Unlocking the Mysteries of Diabates

Researchers isolate insulin, the hormone that allows sugar to enter cells, where it is used for energy. Two years later, mass production begins, enabling people with diabetes to prevent their blood sugar levels from rising and slow the progression of the disease

1928 : The discovery of Pennicillin

Alexander Fleming discovers that a mold had developed on a Petri dish — and created a bacteria-free circle. Twelve years later, other researchers develop the penicillin mold into a new antibiotic that saves millions of lives during WWII and beyond.

1938 : Treatment for epilepsy

The first anti-epileptic drug without sedating side effects is approved. The treatment, still widely used today, prevents intense, abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain, which can lead to seizures, enabling people with epilepsy to manage the condition.

1940 : Finding a treatment in Haystack

A scientist investigating deaths among farm cows discovers that the moldy sweet clover they've been eating contains a blood-thinning agent. It is developed into warfarin, a life-saving medicine which helps keep blood clots from forming, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

1943 : Antibiotics from the ground up

A new antibiotic derived from soil bacteria radically changes how tuberculosis is treated. In the same year, other scientists working with soil bacteria develop the first broad-spectrum antibiotic, for previously untreatable diseases like typhoid fever.  


1948 : An early weapon against cancer

Scientists discover that blocking folic acid shrinks tumors, leading to one of the first chemotherapy drugs, methotrexate.  The innovation continued to bear fruit four decades later -- in 1988, the FDA approved low-dose methotrexate to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

1950 : An anti-inflammatory for arthritis

The Nobel Prize is awarded to the discoverers of cortisone, a naturally produced steroid that suppresses inflammation. Developed two years earlier as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, patients injected with cortisone show remarkable improvement.

1951 : Progress against depression

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are synthesized. Originally used for tuberculosis, they act as powerful mood elevators -- and become one of the first treatments for depression. They balance brain chemicals, relieving the symptoms of depression and paving the way for today’s treatment options.

1952 : Breakthrough in treating psychosis

A surgeon treating surgical shock notes one drug's effect on his patients’ mental states. Tests on psychotic patients have “miraculous” results -- catatonic or violent patients improve so much they are able to move from institutions to their own homes.

1953 : A secret of life is discovered

Watson and Crick discover that DNA is structured as a double-helix that can “unzip” to make copies of itself. This remarkable discovery changes the way that we understand the human body and disease — and forms the basis for modern biotechnology.  

A powerful anti-leukemia drug

The FDA approves mercaptopurine (6-MP) just 10 weeks after studies show it produces remission of childhood leukemia without harming normal cells. Still used today, this innovation transformed leukemia into a treatable disease.

1954 : Polio : The beginning of the end

More than 1.8 million “polio pioneers” get vaccinated against the virus that two years earlier had left thousands dead or paralyzed. The next year, the massive trial shows the vaccine to be safe and effective.

1958 : The new way to lower blood pressure

The FDA approves a new class of diuretics, which remove water and sodium from the body, relaxing blood vessel walls and lowering blood pressure. Thiazide diruetics, introduced this year, are still used today as an important treatment for hypertension.

1960 : Advances in mental health treatment

A decade of psychiatric innovations begins with the first in an important new class of anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepenes. Seven years later, a new class of anti-psychotics that includes Librium and Valium helps treat schizophrenia and other psychoses.

1963 : Making measles history

In 1962, a measles epidemic afflicted 400,000 Americans.  Just four years later, the number of cases falls by 94%, to only 22,000 — thanks to a new vaccine. The vaccine is still widely used today; only two cases were reported in 1998.  

1966 : Stopping gout where it starts

A major milestone in the treatment of gout, one of the most painful of all diseases. A new medication blocks the body's production of uric acid, which causes gout when it builds up in the blood and leads to intense joint pain and tissue inflammation.

1967 : Increasing heart-attack survival

The first beta-blocker, a drug that reduces cardiac stress, is introduced. By blocking nervous-system impact on the heart, the new medication reduces blood pressure, treats several heart problems — and improves survival rates after a heart attack.  

1968 : Kidney transplants become reality

Though surgically possible, organ transplants didn't work because the immune system rejected the new organs.  But a new anti-rejection drug led to the first successful kidney transplant in 1961 — and in 1968 the FDA approved it for widespread use.

1972 : A new type of general anesthesia

Undergoing major surgery without experiencing pain becomes safer with the introduction of enflurane and, seven years later, isoflurane, two inhalation anesthetic that have fewer side effects than earlier options. They become the most widely used general anesthetics in the world.

1973 : A different type of “Pill”

The first effective progestin-only oral contraceptive becomes available, 13 years after the first “pill.” Because it does not contain estrogen, it decreases the risk of complications from estrogen and also provides other non-contraceptive benefits.

1976 : A more selective hypertension treatment

After 13 years of research, a new type of hypertension drug is introduced. Because it acts directly on blood vessels, it effectively reduces blood pressure without the side effects of earlier drugs — and establishes a whole new class of drugs to fight the “silent killer”.

1977 : Surgery-free ulcers treatment

Treatment for peptic ulcers, which often required surgery, changes drastically with the discovery of a chemical that blocks the H2 receptors that trigger gastric acid secretion. For the first time ulcers can be cured within months — and without surgery.

1981 : New tools to fight cardiovascular disease

The first ACE inhibitor, as well as the first calcium channel blockers are introduced this year. Each provides a new mechanism for controlling high blood pressure; together, they represent major progress in the fight to reduce cardiovascular disease and death.

1982 : Viral Sabotage

The FDA approves a new treatment for infections caused by the herpes virus. The drug is mistaken by the virus as a compound it needs to reproduce. This “secret agent” interrupts the viral reproductive cycle and alters the course of infection.

1983 : Spurring innovation of rare diseases

The Orphan Drug Act is passed, providing incentives to develop treatments for rare or “orphan” diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people nationwide. Nearly 250 orphan drugs have been developed since, saving an estimated 100,000 lives.

A turning point of transplantation

Research into an “interesting” compound isolated from a soil fungus – at first thought to have little practical value – yields a new type of immunosuppressant that revolutionizes organ transplants by greatly reducing rates of rejection.

1986 : Interferons approved to treat leukemia

Interferons are proteins that protect cells from viral infections. Though discovered in the 1950s, very little was available until genetic engineering boosted supply in the 1980s. Just a few years later, an interferon is approved to treat leukemia.

A new tool for kidney transplants

The FDA approves monoclonal antibodies to reverse rejection of transplanted kidneys. One of the first biotech products used as a therapeutic agent, it helps pave the way for approval of a wide variety of biotech drugs and vaccines.

1987 : a breakthrough drug for depression

The first in a revolutionary new class of antidepressants is approved. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase levels of the important brain chemical serotonin, provide new hope for the millions of Americans who suffer from depression, and reduce the cost of treating the condition.

The first treatment for AIDS

Four years after the identification of the HIV virus, the FDA approves the first treatment for HIV infection.  Called AZT, the drug interferes with the virus’s replication, and significantly cuts AIDS death rates. Later, it is used to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Hopes for Americans with high cholesterol

A groundbreaking class of cholesterol-lowering drugs — statins — is discovered. These medications dramatically lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases for millions of Americans.  Today, scientists continue to research more beneficial uses of statins.

1989 : New energy for dialysis patients

A genetically engineered protein helps treat anemia — and the extreme fatigue it can cause — in patients on dialysis. Epoetin alfa gives the two hundred thousand Americans with kidney failure new energy so they can resume normal activities.

1990 : “Atypical” treatment for schizophrenia

The first “atypical antipsychotic” is introduced for schizophrenia. These new drugs -- such as olanzapine, approved in 1996, after 22 years in development -- prove more effective and have fewer side effects than older treatments.

1991 : Easing the side effect of chemotherapy

Two researchers at different labs, working simultaneously in the 1980s, discover how the neurotransmitter serotonin can alleviate the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy treatment.  The FDA approves both drugs within three years of each other.

1993 : The treatment for Alzheimer’s disease

Before 1993, there were no treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. But new drugs introduced this year boost the brain’s supply of a key neurotransmitter — helping improve memory and mental functioning and reducing behavioral problems.

1994 : From tree bark to cancer treatment

Paclitaxel — a drug derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree — is approved as a treatment for breast cancer, two years after its approval for ovarian cancer. The drug inhibits tumor growth, and is now widely used for a variety of cancers.

1995 : Drug combinations reduce AIDS death toll

Protease inhibitors, a new class of HIV/AIDS drugs, improve the health and life expectancy of people with AIDS. Used in a "cocktail" with existing AIDS therapies, protease inhibitors will help reduce AIDS deaths by 65% in the next three years.

Two new treatments for diabetes

Two new classes of diabetes drugs are introduced — beginning a burst of innovation that creates three more classes of medicines in five years. Each class works in a different way to control blood glucose, giving doctors and patients more treatment options and more control in treating this increasingly common disease.

A new way to lower blood pressure

A new class of medicines becomes available for the one in four American adults with high blood pressure. By blocking the hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow, one pill a day provides smooth, gradual, 24-hour blood pressure reduction.

1996 : Another weapon against AIDS

The introduction of non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors -- the second class of drugs that interfere with the transcriptase enzyme that plays a key role in the life cycle of HIV. This new drug binds to the enzyme so it can't copy itself.

Preventing river blindness

The FDA approves ivermectin to treat "river blindness" -- caused by a parasitic worm -- that threatens 85 million people in Africa and Latin America. A single annual dose of the drug has already proven highly effective throughout the world in a vast donation program started in 1987, helping protect the eyesight of millions.

1997 : Biotech breakthrough for cancer

The FDA approves the first biotech product to treat a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Rituximab, based on a mouse antibody, targets a specific cell — so it shrinks tumors with fewer side effects than other treatments.

A major advances for Parkinson’s disease

The introduction of dopamine agonists provides a new way of treating Parkinson’s disease. The drugs mimic dopamine, which helps the brain control movement. Another new class of dopamine-boosting drugs is approved the next year.

1998 : Arthritis breakthroughs

In one year, the FDA approves three different classes of drugs that improve the lives of patients with rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis. As a result, millions of people are relieved from crippling joint pain and regain mobility.

2000 : A new approach to treating cancer

The FDA approves the first antibody-targeted chemotherapy, a new approach to treating cancer. This leukemia treatment links a potent anti-tumor drug with a cancer-specific antibody so it targets only cancer cells -- leaving healthy cells alone.  

Showing the progression of Alzheimer's

The second class of drugs for Alzheimer's disease is approved. Cholinesterase inhibitors increase the level of the brain chemical acetylcholine, which appears to slow mental decline in Alzheimer's patients. A third class approved in 2003, is the first treatment for severe Alzheimer’s.

2001 : more advances in HIV treatment

The third class of HIV drugs that target the transcriptase enzyme win approval. Nucleotide analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors provide HIV with “false” chemical building blocks that stop it from multiplying, lowering the amount of virus in the body.

A life-saving leukemia treatment

The FDA approves a drug that targets chronic myeloid leukemia on a molecular level. Before, only three in ten patients survived for five years; now, many are in remission — with few if any side effects. Molecular targeting is the “wave of the future.”

2002 : A new class of drug pressure drugs

Selective aldosterone receptor antagonists, which block a hormone that helps the kidneys absorb sodium and water, are introduced. Too much absorption can cause blood pressure to increase; blocking the hormone helps prevent that increase.

Another way to reduce cholesterol

The FDA approves cholesterol absorption inhibitors, which work in the small intestine to keep cholesterol from entering the liver, helping remove it from the blood. This new class of drugs can be used with statins to reduce high cholesterol levels.


2003 : The human genome is mapped

Fifty years after the discovery of the structure of DNA, the Human Genome Project completes the sequencing of the genetic code. The project ushers in a new era of innovation — providing new strategies to diagnose, treat and prevent disease

A new approach to fighting HIV

The FDA approves a new class of drugs, fusion inhibitors, that stops HIV from attaching itself to healthy cells and prevents it from multiplying. This different approach offers new hope to people who have developed resistance to other HIV medicines.

Today : Research holds unprecedented potential

As you read this, researchers are exploring the frontiers of science to find new medicines that will help patients still waiting for relief.  New approaches such as genomics, molecular targeting, and personalized medicine are making the life sciences more promising than ever.  

Got permission from : Great Moments in Innovations



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