Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to scientists who developed genome editing*

Scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a genome editing method that has revolutionised science by providing a way to alter DNA’s genetic code.

Charpentier, who is French, and Doudna, an American, become the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel Prize for chemistry ‒ joining Marie Curie (1911) and, more recently, Frances Arnold (2018) – and are the first women ever to be awarded the prize together.

The genetic tool developed by the scientists, CRISPR/Cas9, allows for laser-sharp snips in the long strings of DNA that make up the “code of life,” allowing researchers to precisely edit specific genes to remove errors that lead to disease.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry. “It has not only revolutionized basic science but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.” Gustafsson said that, as a result, any genome can now be edited “to fix genetic damage.”

More than 100 clinical trials are underway on the use of CRISPR to treat inherited diseases, and “many are very promising,” according to Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.

Yet again, another monumental achievement in science and medicine recognised this week by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden.

*phys.org. 2020. 2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool. [online] Available at: <https://phys.org/news/2020-10-nobel-prize-chemistry-awarded-charpentier.html> [Accessed 08 October 2020].