The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to French scientist Emmanuella Charpentier and American scientist Jennifer A. Doudna. They were honored by the coveted award for developing a method of genome editing which is likened to “molecular scissors.”
The recipients were announced in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday. The chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, Claes Gustafsson, is of the view that there is enormous power in this genetic tool which actually affects us all.
He added that “It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.” As a result, according to him, any genome can now be edited to fix genetic damages.
Charpentier and Doudna have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools which are the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. 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 and is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about the inner workings of life. This is time-consuming, difficult and at times an impossible work. However, using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, it is now possible to change the code of life over the course of a few weeks.
Charpentier published her discovery in 2011 and in the same year, initiated a collaboration with Doudna who is an experienced biochemist with a 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 that they were easier to use.
The reputable award comes with prize money of 10 million krona (more than $1.1 million), courtesy of a bequest left by Alfred Nobel – the prize’s creator and Swedish inventor; and a gold medal.