Evelyn Witkin Collection

The following is another post in our series highlighting the collections that are being processed through the NHPRC Basic Processing Grant.

Witkin and A.H. Sparrow at the 1947 CSH Symposium
Evelyn M. Witkin is an American geneticist whose research has been widely influential in the areas of DNA mutagenesis and DNA repair.

The Evelyn Witkin Collection at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory consists of three series including Dr. Witkin’s professional correspondence with Nobelist Barbara McClintock, Joshua Lederberg, and Ruth Sager among others. There is a complete collection of her personal reprints as well as historical documents related to her work on the “SOS Response”.

 Witkin’s connection to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is through her work at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Genetics where she was a staff scientist from 1945 until 1955. During her time at the Department of Genetics, she isolated a UV radiation-resistant mutant of E. coli, the first time this work had been done. 

Dr. Witkin is a frequent visitor to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  Dr. Witkin participated in the CSHL Oral History Project in and her interview can be viewed on the Oral History Office website at http://library.cshl.edu/oralhistory/speaker/evelyn-witkin/

- C.C., Archivist

The Office of Technology Transfer Collection

The following is another post in our series highlighting the collections that are being processed through the NHPRC Basic Processing Grant.

The Office of Technology Transfer Collection documents CSHL’s first inroads into the world of Biotechnology.  Research that was initially carried out in academic laboratories led to the development of recombinant DNA techniques.  This in turn stimulated entrepreneurial scientists to create biotechnology companies. Recombinant DNA is the technology that allows us to insert genes from one organism into another to make it produce a protein product, copy the gene multiple times, or give it a new trait. The discovery of recombinant DNA was considered the "birth" of modern biotechnology.  

CSHL has always been on the forefront of scientific research and discoveries.  Thus, it was a natural progression that the Lab should move into biotechnology.   Here we will show a brief overview of three early forays.

1.       Cellbiology Corporation, a biotechnology company established in 1980, was a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. It was originally conceived as the commercial arm of the Lab and as an entity that would initiate CSHL into the biotech world and harness the developments in gene splicing and recombinant DNA techniques.   Cellbiology was used for a few projects in the early-to-mid 1980s, but it never developed into a long-term concern.  The most significant work occured in 1982: Cellbiology Corporation signed a contract with Baxter Travenol, "covering the development of Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) as a potentially useful pharmaceutical product to dissolve blood clots."   Together, the two companies contracted to work with the Genetics Institute in Boston on the Activator.  In July 1984, Baxter Travenol sold its interests in tPA technology to Burroughs Wellcome. Cellbiology Corporation was kept mostly dormant from the mid-1980s on, and it was dissolved in 1995. 

Dr. Harlow in 1986 with URP student Abhjeet Lele
2.       Ed Harlow: In 1988, while working at CSHL, Ed Harlow and his colleagues established "a crucial functional link between the two general classes of cancer-causing genes (oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes)".  Oncogenes  (tumor inducing genes) induce changes in cell phenotype.  Adenovirus oncogene E1A can immortalize primary cells and can also cooperate with the adenovirus E1B gene or other oncogene to transform cells in culture.  The transformed cells will induce tumors in animals.  E1A encoded proteins are potent regulators of gene expression able to modulate transcription of both viral and cellular genes.  E1A proteins activate transcription of the other adenovirus early genes and certain cellular genes.  They also repress transcription of genes linked to certain viral or cellular enhancers.

In addition to his work on oncogens, while at CSHL, Dr. Harlow and Nick Dyson worked under a relationship between CSHL and Amersham on monoclonal antibodies.  Dr. Harlow left CSHL in February of 1991 to become scientific director at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

3.       ICOS Corp. was founded in early 1990 as a Seattle-based drug discovery company specializing in inflammatory diseases. ICOS was founded by three men: George Rathmann, founder of Amgen; Robert Nowinski, founder of Genetic Systems Corporation; and Christopher Henney, founder of Immunex Corporation.

The formal relationship between CSHL and ICOS began in April 1990 with a licensing agreement under which ICOS was obligated to pay CSHL royalties for all PDE [phosphodiesterase] products developed by ICOS that used Michael Wigler's patented techniques.  ICOS eventually developed the popular drug Cialis from Dr. Wigler's technology. This portion of the Collection is restricted due to confidentiality obligations between ICOS and CSHL.

Here is a photo of the early scientists and administrators involved with ICOS, circa 1990. 
- Amy Driscoll, Project Archivist

DNA DAY 2013

Today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Watson and Crick's famous paper on the structure of DNA.  The CSHL Archives is home to the James D. Watson Collection, which includes many documents related to the discovery.  Below is just a selection of items found in the collection, all of which are accessible via our online repository.

Original model of DNA, used in Watson's The Double Helix.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection
 New York Times clipping regarding DNA structure discovery, 1953.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection

Crick, Herbert "Freddie" Gutfreund, and Watson in Cambridge, 1953.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection
Draft biography of Francis Crick by Watson, 1960s.
For complete biography please see our online repository.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection
Letter from Rosalind Franklin to Watson regarding Tobacco Mosaic Virus and RNA, 1955.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection

"Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA" promotional photograph.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection
Letter from Rosalind Franklin biographer Anne Sayre to Watson, 1970.
Please see our online repository for the rest of the letter.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection
DNA Reading List, c. 1962. Handwritten notation possibly by Francis Crick.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection

Francois Jacob, 1920-2013

Andre Lwoff, Jacques Monod, and Francois Jacob win the Nobel Prize in 1965.
Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection.

Last Friday famed molecular biologist Francois Jacob passed away.  Jacob, along with Andrew Lwoff and Jacques Monod, was awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for identifying messenger RNA and their work on gene regulation.  This research was conducted during the golden age of molecular biology--the period from the late 1940s until the early 1960s when our understanding of genetics grew leaps and bounds.  Jacob described the tight-knit community of scientists at the time in an oral history interview for Web of Stories:

"There were 15 or 20 guys, always the same ones [at scientific meetings]. Roughly there were Delbrück's guys- there was the Delbrück-Luria group, Jim [Watson] who came from it because he was Luria's student. In England there was Crick and Sydney [Brenner]. And there was us here. And that's it."

The CSHL Library & Archives holds a number of letters between Jacob, Watson, Brenner, Crick, and others, which illustrate the community and friendship which existed among many of the major scientists of the era. 

Courtesy of the James D. Watson Collection.
The letter above is from Francois Jacob to Matthew Meselson.  The two, along with Sydney Brenner, conducted a famous experiment at Caltech which showed that RNA was a copy of the information in DNA.  The RNA acts as a messenger, transporting the information from the nucleus to the protein-making machinery in the cell.  As the letter indicates, Watson and Francois Gros were also working on RNA at the time.

For more letters and photographs related to Francois Jacob please visit our online repository.

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