© Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

For the development of CRISPR/Cas9

Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 to Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin, Germany, and Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, “for the development of a method for genome editing”, more commonly known as the 'gene scissors' CRISPR/Cas9.

Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.

There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments

Claes Gustafsson

Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about life’s inner workings. This used to be time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, it is now possible to change the code of life over the course of a few weeks. “There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments,” says Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Photo
Emmanuelle Charpentier (left) and Jennifer A. Doudna

© Nobel Media / Illustrator: Niklas Elmehed                                                             

                                                                                                               

As so often in science, the discovery of these genetic scissors was unexpected. During Emmanuelle Charpentier’s studies of Streptococcus pyogenes, one of the bacteria that cause the most harm to humanity, she discovered a previously unknown molecule, tracrRNA. Her work showed that tracrRNA is part of bacteria’s ancient immune system, CRISPR/Cas, that disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA. Charpentier published her discovery in 2011. The same year, she initiated a collaboration with Jennifer Doudna, an experienced biochemist with vast knowledge of RNA. Together, they succeeded in recreating the bacteria’s genetic scissors in a test tube and simplifying the scissors’ molecular components so they were easier to use.

In an epoch-making experiment, they then reprogrammed the genetic scissors. In their natural form, the scissors recognise DNA from viruses, but Charpentier and Doudna proved that they could be controlled so that they can cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site. Where the DNA is cut it is then easy to rewrite the code of life.

Recommended article

Photo

For breakthroughs against Hepatitis C

Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded to three scientists who have made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus.

Since Charpentier and Doudna discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in 2012 their use has exploded. This tool has contributed to many important discoveries in basic research, and plant researchers have been able to develop crops that withstand mould, pests and drought. In medicine, clinical trials of new cancer therapies are underway, and the dream of being able to cure inherited diseases is about to come true. These genetic scissors have taken the life sciences into a new epoch and, in many ways, are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind.


Source: Nobel Media AB

07.10.2020

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

Clinical computational tools

Managing cancer more effectively

Computational approaches are being applied on enormous amounts of data from sequencing technologies to develop tools to help clinicians manage cancer more effectively.

Photo

From decades to days

Single test for over 50 genetic diseases cuts diagnosis

A DNA test has been shown to identify a range of hard-to-diagnose neurological and neuromuscular genetic diseases quicker and more-accurately than existing tests.

Photo

Pathogen analysis

Unlocking epidemic prevention with affordable genome sequencing

A worldwide consortium aims to equip researchers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with cheap and accessible methods for sequencing large collections of bacterial pathogens.

Related products

Lifotronic – Nucleic Acid Extraction Kit

Extraction

Lifotronic – Nucleic Acid Extraction Kit

Lifotronic Technology Co., Ltd
MolGen – PurePrep 96

Extraction

MolGen – PurePrep 96

MolGen
Sarstedt – White Multiply PCR Plates

Amplification

Sarstedt – White Multiply PCR Plates

SARSTEDT AG & CO. KG
Subscribe to Newsletter