History of the LMB

In 1947 the Medical Research Council set up a ‘Unit for Research on the Molecular Structure of Biological Systems’ to enable Max Perutz and John Kendrew to develop their work using X-ray diffraction to study proteins.

The unit quickly diversified into other areas, including the structure of DNA, mechanism of muscle contraction, and structure of viruses, and became one of the birthplaces of modern molecular biology. This work was done while the unit was housed in the Physics Department at the Cavendish Laboratory.

The MRC, realising the potential for medical applications of these developments, provided a new building for the unit, and in 1962 the Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the new Addenbrooke’s site was opened. Since then, the Laboratory has been a prolific source of new ideas, discoveries and inventions, establishing its reputation as a leading international research centre.

The Laboratory has won ten Nobel Prizes for key discoveries and research undertaken in Cambridge.

Discoveries made at LMB have also formed the basis of many biotechnology companies, including Domantis, Cambridge Antibody Technology, Ribotargets, Protein Design Labs, Celltech, and Biogen.


LMB History Timeline

1947
‘Unit for Research on the Molecular Structure of Biological Systems’
1953
Double-helix structure of DNA elucidated
1953
Sliding filament model for muscle contraction proposed
1957
Single amino acid change causes sickle cell anaemia
1958
Nobel Prize for Fred Sanger
1959
First atomic resolution map of a protein, myoglobin
1959
Structure of haemoglobin determined
1961
Genetic studies lead to discovery of messenger RNA
1962
New LMB building opened
1962
Nobel Prize for Max Perutz & John Kendrew
1962
Nobel Prize for Jim Watson & Francis Crick
1967
First mutant of nematode worm, C. elegans, produced
1968
3D-reconstruction of structure from electron micrographs introduced
1972
Signal peptide sequence which directs protein secretion discovered
1975
Monoclonal antibody methodology invented
1975
First 3D structure of a membrane protein, bacteriorhodopsin
1977
Di-deoxy method of sequencing DNA
1980
Nobel Prize for Fred Sanger
1982
Nobel Prize for Aaron Klug
1984
Nobel Prize for César Milstein & Georges Köhler
1985
Zinc finger DNA-binding motif proposed
1986
First humanised antibody produced
1986
Structure of the nervous system of C. elegans published
1987
Commercial production of MRC confocal microscope
1989
Cambridge Antibody Technology formed
1989
Queen’s Award for Technology for peptide synthesizer
1991
Queen’s Award for Technology for confocal microscope
1997
Nobel Prize for John Walker
1997
Major component of filamentous lesions characterizing Parkinson’s disease identified
1998
Genome of C. elegans completed
2000
Structure of 30S ribosomal subunit determined
2002
Nobel Prize for Sydney Brenner, Bob Horvitz & John Sulston
2009
Nobel Prize for Venki Ramakrishnan