2 Women Win Chemistry Nobel for Tool With 'Enormous Power'

Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer A. Doudna claim prize for their genome editing method
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2020 6:11 AM CDT
2 Women Win Chemistry Nobel for 'Molecular Scissors'
In this March 14, 2016, file photo, American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna, left, and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier pose for a photo in Frankfurt, Germany.   (Alexander Heinl/dpa via AP)

French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer A. Doudna have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a method of genome editing likened to "molecular scissors" that offer the promise of one day curing genetic diseases. The recipients were announced Wednesday in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, per the AP. "There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all," Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said of the CRISPR/Cas9 scissors the women discovered in 2012, per a release. "It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to groundbreaking new medical treatments." The CRISPR scissors can be used to change the DNA of animals, plants, and microorganisms with great precision.

Gustafsson said that as a result, any genome can now be edited "to fix genetic damage," though he cautioned that the "enormous power of this technology means we have to use it with great care." Still, it "is equally clear that this is a technology, a method that will provide humankind with great opportunities." "I was very emotional," Charpentier told reporters by phone from Berlin after hearing of the award, adding: "My wish is that this will provide a positive message to the young girls who would like to follow the path of science, and to show them that women in science can also have an impact through the research that they are performing." The two scientists will split the $1.1 million chemistry prize. Coming up later this week: the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. (More Nobel Prize in Chemistry stories.)

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