The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD, and biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna, PhD, for their 2012 discovery of the CRISPR gene-editing tool.
Dr. Charpentier’s first paper on CRISPR was published in Nature in 2011. She met Dr. Doudna at a scientific conference that same year. Together, they published their seminal paper in 2012, proving that bacterial enzyme Cas9 could cut purified DNA in test tubes and be combined with CRISPR-related RNAs that would lead Cas9 to any site on a DNA molecule.
In the years that followed, scientists built on their work to launch studies testing CRISPR’s ability to cure disorders such as sickle cell disease, beta thalassemia, congenital blindness, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, and hemophilia. The technology is an indispensable tool for experimental hematologists, giving them an opportunity to identify genes of interest and delineate key coding and noncoding sequences.
In 2018, Dr. Charpentier founded the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany. Dr. Doudna is a Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Professor in Biomedical and Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
The 2020 prize in chemistry is the first science Nobel Prize awarded to two women. “I wish that this will provide a positive message, specifically, to young girls who would like to follow the path of science,” Dr. Charpentier said.
“I’m proud of my gender. I think it’s great, especially for younger women, to see this and to see that women’s work can be recognized as much as men’s,” Dr. Doudna added.