World News: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded on Wednesday to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their 2012 work on Crispr-Cas9, a method to edit DNA. The announcement marks the first time the award has gone to two women.
“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life,” Goran K. Hansson, the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said as he announced the names of the laureates.
Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna, only the sixth and seventh women in history to win a chemistry prize, did much of the pioneering work to turn molecules made by microbes into a tool for customizing genes — whether in microbes, plants, animals or even humans.
“I’m over the moon, I’m in shock,” Dr. Doudna, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
It has been only eight years since Dr. Doudna and Dr. Charpentier — now the director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin — co-authored their first paper demonstrating the power of Crispr-Cas9. Since then, the technology has exploded. Doctors are testing it as a cure for genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease and hereditary blindness. Plant scientists are using it to create new crops. Some researchers are even trying to use Crispr to bring species back from extinction.
Along with these high-profile experiments, other scientists are using Crispr to ask fundamental questions about life, such as which genes are essential to a cell’s survival. Crispr “solves problems in every field of biology,” said Angela Zhou, an information scientist at CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society.
“This technology has utterly transformed the way we do research in basic science,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. “I am thrilled to see Crispr-Cas getting the recognition we have all been waiting for, and seeing two women being recognized as Nobel Laureates.”
Crispr has also become one of the most controversial developments in science because of its potential to alter human heredity. In 2018, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, announced that he had used the technology to edit the genes of human embryos, which yielded the world’s first genetically modified infants. Dr. He’s experiments were decried by many in the scientific community as irresponsible and dangerous.
Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna both stumbled across Crispr by accident. Dr. Charpentier, a microbiologist, spent a number of years studying Streptococcus pyogenes, a species of bacteria that causes scarlet fever and other diseases. Inspecting the microbe’s DNA in 2006, she and her colleagues discovered a puzzling series of repeating segments.
A few scientists had studied these segments since the 1980s, but no one was sure of their function. Francisco Mojica, a microbiologist at the University of Alicante in Spain, gave these DNA stretches a name in 2000: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or Crispr for short.
Courtesy to: nytimes