Co-transformation biotechnology technique


Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons


Richard Axel, MD, University Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Pathology and Cell Biology, and Saul Silverstein, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons


Axel and Silverstein, along with Michael Wigler, PhD (now at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), discovered a method of introducing genes into mammalian cells. They published their findings, in which they successfully transferred a herpes virus gene into mouse cells, in 1977. The technique, known as co-transformation, became invaluable for biomedical researchers and made it possible to use the transformed cells to make a wide range of biological molecules for use as pharmaceuticals. Co-transformation was patented in 1983. Several pharmaceutical companies have employed the technique to make dozens of new drugs, including tPA for blood clots, Humira for rheumatoid arthritis, Raptiva for psoriasis, and Herceptin for breast cancer.