The prize, all-female, was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of the DNA modification method, commonly known as CRISPR
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The prestigious award went to two women, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, awarded for the development of a method for genome editing. The two researchers have the merit of having discovered one of the finest and most precise technologies for the modification of genetic code: CRISPR/Cas9. CRISPR is a DNA segment that has the precise task of cutting genome chains in precise points.
The discovery has had a huge impact on medical science as it has contributed to the development of new cancer therapies and has paved the way for research into the treatment of hereditary genetic diseases. The discovery occurred in 2011 almost by chance. Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier realized that within one of the most lethal bacteria for humans (Streptococcus pyogenes) there were some unknown molecules. Further studies showed that these molecules, called CRISPR, protected the bacteria from viruses by destroying the DNA of the external agent. The studies were deepened thanks to the collaboration with Prof. Jennifer Dounda, an expert biochemist with extensive knowledge of RNA.
The research led to the development of a completely new branch of science. Plants modified ad hoc to withstand pests or particular weather conditions are already widespread in the fields. The hope is to bring these techniques to a level where they can effectively combat congenital genetic diseases. Emmanuelle Charpentier, French, obtained her Ph.D. from Institut Pasteur in Paris and is currently the Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. Jennifer A. Doudna, American, received her Ph.D in 1989 from Harvard Medical School in Boston and is currently Professor at the University of California Berkeley and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
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