Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna,56, and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier,51, have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method for genome editing. they are the first women to jointly Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the sixth and seventh women to win the chemistry prize.
They discovered one of gene technology's sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. With the use of these, researchers can change the DNA of plants, animals, and micro-organisms with extremely high precision.
Göran K. Hansson, secretary-general for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said this year's prize was about "rewriting the code of life."
The CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tools have revolutionized the molecular life sciences, brought new opportunities for plant breeding, are contributing to innovative cancer therapies, and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
While researching a common harmful bacteria, Charpentier discovered a previously unknown molecule -- part of the bacteria's ancient immune system that disarms viruses by snipping off parts of their DNA.
After publishing her research in 2011, Charpentier worked with Doudna to recreate the bacteria's genetic scissors, simplifying the tool so it was easier to use and apply to other genetic material.
They then reprogrammed the scissors to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site -- paving the way for scientists to rewrite the code of life where the DNA is snipped.
The CRISPR/Cas9 tool has already contributed to significant gains in crop resilience, altering their genetic code to better withstand drought and pests.
The technology has also led to innovative cancer treatments, and many experts hope it could one day make inherited diseases curable through gene manipulation.
"There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionized basic science but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments," Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a statement.
Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discoveries about Black Holes.