Emmanuelle Charpentier (left) and Jennifer Doudna speak at an international summit of the National Academy of Sciences on safety and ethics in genome editing, in Washington. (Susan Walsh)
Berlin – Scientists Emmanuelle Charpientier and Jennifer Doudna are the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for rewriting the “code of life” and “developing a method for genome editing,” announced the Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
The winners discovered one of the “sharpest tools in gene technology”: the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors, the Academy noted, when communicating its decision.
With them, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision.
The Chemistry prize is the last among the scientific prizes of the Nobel round, after the Medicine prize was revealed on Monday and the Physics prize yesterday, Tuesday.
Charpentier (Juvisy-sur-Orge, France, 1968), is a biochemist and microbiologist specialized in viruses and one of the most innovative researchers in the field of gene therapy who in 2002 established her own work group and has been linked to different universities in Austria and Germany.
Doudna (Washington DC, 1964), PhD in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard, is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, where she also directs the Division of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology.
CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors “have revolutionized molecular life sciences, provided new opportunities for plant breeding, are contributing to innovative cancer therapies and can make the dream of curing inherited diseases a reality,” added the Swedish academy.
Charpentier and Doudna investigated the immune system of a Streptococcus bacterium and “discovered a molecular tool that can be used to make precise incisions in genetic material, allowing the code of life to be easily changed.”
The two biochemists were awarded the 2015 Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research for developing “a technology that allows to edit genomes in a simple and precise way, and to manipulate the DNA of plants, animals and humans,” the institution highlighted at the time. Spanish.
The announcement of the Chemistry award is the last in the round of scientific awards among Nobel laureates, after those for Medicine were revealed on Monday and Physics on Tuesday.
The Medicine one went to three virologists, the Americans Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and the British Michael Houghton, for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
The British Roger Penrose, the German Reinhard Genzel and the American Andrea Ghez will share the one on Physics for their discoveries about the black holes of the universe.
Tomorrow the one corresponding to Literature will be announced, on Friday the one on Peace will follow and the round will finally be closed with that of Economy, next Monday.
All the prizes include a financial prize, which this year increased to 10 million Swedish crowns -one million more compared to 2019- (956,876 euros, 1,121,533 dollars), to be distributed in case of more than one winner.
All the awards are given on December 10, the anniversary of the death of the founder, Alfred Nobel, in parallel events in Stockholm, for scientists, literature and economics, while the Peace is held in Oslo.
Both the announcements of the awards and the delivery will be in this edition in a reduced format due to the coronavirus pandemic.