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October 13, 1978

Bacteria directed to produce insulin in test application of genetic code

JAMA. 1978;240(16):1697-1698. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290160015001

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Putting the genetic code to the test, California researchers have synthesized genes that "instruct" an enfeebled laboratory strain of Escherichia coli (EK-1) to produce the two amino acid chains of insulin. When these peptide chains are separated from the enzyme to which they are attached, purified, and mixed together, the result is a chemical structure identical to human insulin.

Making the announcement are scientists from City of Hope National Medical Center at Duarte, Calif, near Los Angeles, and the research and development laboratories of Genentech, Inc, in South San Francisco. Genentech funded the work.

A long-range development program now is beginning, "aimed at the eventual commercial production of human insulin" by this means.

Because the precise sequence of amino acids in insulin is known, the researchers said, they were able to select nucleotides that code for each of these amino acids and "design the necessary genes on paper." Then, using