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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Grantee Shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Dr. Doudna

Dr. Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, is shown here giving the annual NIH Director’s Margaret Pittman Lecture on Mar. 11, 2015.

Photo: Bill Branson

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with the University of California, Berkeley, and a genome editing pioneer, has received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of a method for genome editing.” She has had continuous NIH funding since 1997 from NIGMS, NIAID and NHGRI.

She shares the honor with Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist and a fellow genome editing pioneer with the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin, Germany.

According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Doudna and Charpentier “have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”

“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.”

Drs. Doudna and Collins

Doudna joined Collins for a live ½-hour Q&A session on social media the day following the Nobel announcement. Topics ranged from covid applications for CRISPR to its ethical uses.

The academy continued, “Since Charpentier and Doudna discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in 2012, their use has exploded. This tool has contributed to many important discoveries in basic research, and plant researchers have been able to develop crops that withstand mould, pests and drought. In medicine, clinical trials of new cancer therapies are underway, and the dream of being able to cure inherited diseases is about to come true. These genetic scissors have taken the life sciences into a new epoch and, in many ways, are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind.”

Dozens of NIH-supported scientists from around the world have received Nobel prizes for their groundbreaking achievements in physiology or medicine; chemistry; physics; and economic sciences. To date, 163 NIH-supported researchers have been sole or shared recipients of 96 Nobel prizes.

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