The Dorm Room Where Biotechnology Was Born

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Dr. Thomas Chang

In 1956, Thomas Chang was studying physiology as an undergraduate at McGill. He embarked on a project to build the world’s first artificial cell – in his dorm room. Using a cheap perfume atomizer, he built thin membranes of plastic that contained hemoglobin, the hardworking compound in red blood cells that moves oxygen through the bloodstream and ushers out carbon dioxide. He became one of the few undergraduate scientists to publish a paper in the prestigious magazine Science. He is credited with being among the first scientists to work in field of biotechnology. He continued doing research at McGill after earning his B.Sc., going on to become an M.D. and Ph.D.

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McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada's best-known institutions of higher learning and one of the leading universities in the world. With students coming to McGill from over 150 countries, our student body is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country.