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Nobels

2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by 2 female scientists for genome-splicing breakthrough

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday to two scientists, Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna, "for the development of a method for genome editing," the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

"Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants, and microorganisms with extremely high precision," the academy explained. "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."

The "enormous power of this technology means we have to use it with great care," said Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, but it "is equally clear that this is a technology, a method that will provide humankind with great opportunities."

Charpentier published her discovery about a molecular tool in the Streptococcus bacteria that can cleave DNA in 2011, and she and Doudna refashioned those genetic scissors so they could "cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site," making it "easy to rewrite the code of life," the academy wrote. "Since Charpentier and Doudna discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in 2012 their use has exploded."

“I was very emotional, I have to say,” Charpentier said from Berlin, where she works at the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens. "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."