Biochemist Jennifer Doudna, a professor at UC Berkeley and faculty scientist in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division, has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of a method for genome editing.” She shares the Nobel Prize with co-discoverer Emmanuelle Charpentier, who currently serves as the scientific and managing director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. Together, they form the first all-woman research team to be recognized with a Nobel Prize.
Doudna’s CRISPR work builds on her long history of studying various aspects of RNA, which includes some Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD)-funded work on CRISPR RNA strands and the Cas1 protein. In 2012, Doudna and Charpentier’s research team detailed the underlying mechanisms of the CRISPR-Cas9 system – a component of the bacterial immune system that defends against invading viruses – and explained how it can be programmed to cut DNA at a target sequence.
Today, Doudna and Charpentier’s Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR-Cas9 technology is the basis of many promising medical technologies, including tools to diagnose and treat infections, and has many applications for the development of improved crops, biofuels, and bioproducts.