Two women, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in genome editing.
The duo discovered the CRISPR-Cas9, a molecular tool that introduces targeted Double Strand DNA Breaks. This allows genetic manipulation by exploiting endogenous DNA repair mechanisms. It also makes it possible to change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms.
According to CNN’s report, secretary-general for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Göran K. Hansson said that the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is about rewriting the code of life. Emmanuelle Charpentier is a French microbiologist while Jennifer A. Doudna is a biochemist from the US.
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They both reengineered the Cas9 endonuclease — a four-component system that includes two small crRNA molecules and trans-activating CRISPR RNA (tracrRNA) — into a more manageable two-component system by fusing the two RNA molecules into a ‘single-guide RNA’. By doing this, they managed to combine it with Cas9. Thus, they could find and cut the DNA target specified by the guide RNA.
Charpentier and Doudna’s work revolutionised molecular life science. It open the door to expansive opportunities in fields like plant breeding, as well as improved cancer therapies. There is hope that this research will one day lead to eradicating inherited diseases.
Jennifer A. Doudna is a Li Ka Shing Chancellor Chair Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. While, Emmanuelle Charpentier has been a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany since 2015.
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