French scientist Emmanuel Charpentier and American Jennifer Doudna have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The CRISPR / CAS9 genome editing strategy for their development, a method that has often been praised in the future as a panacea, is capable of curing any disease.
This has allowed researchers to modify DNA and alter the function of specific genes. CRISPR is now seen by many as an important tool in the fight and cure of multiple diseases and genetic conditions, including cancer, blood disorders, and HIV. CRISPR / CAS9, or more simply CRISPR, is the ability to keep specific parts of the genome in pieces.
To develop this simple but powerful way to edit the genomes of an organism, the two scientists won a prize of 10 million kroner (about 12 1.12 million), which they would share equally.
Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee on Chemistry, said in a statement, “This genetic tool has a lot of power, which affects all of us. It has not only revolutionized the field of basic science, it has resulted in innovative crops and will force new treatments. “
In his research, Charpentier discovered Streptococcus pyogenes, a bacterium responsible for various catastrophes in humans, when it used unknown molecules before being infected by the virus. This molecule, tracrRNA, removes the genetic code of the virus, acting as part of the bacterial resistance, CRISPR / CAS. Humans are not the only organisms infected by the virus. Bacteria can also be victims of this microorganism.
This is extremely important. Thanks to the discovery of CRISPR / CAS9 in 2012, genetic editing has become much more targeted. CRISPR has already been employed by others in genetically modified organisms and, highly controversially, in humans. Although the potential of this technique is huge, most scientists believe that the consequences of this technology are not yet fully understood. But there is no reason to deny that it was a game-changer.
Collaborating with Doudna, Charpentier set about recovering the bacterial “genetic scissors” in a test tube. Together with their team, they simplified the molecular structure, making it easier to use, as well as showing that it could be programmed to cut any DNA molecule at a specific site.
This is the first time in the history of the Nobel Prize that women have won any award alone. The latest Nobel Prize for Men was awarded on Monday. This announcement is also surprising because the Nobel’s were first introduced in 1901 when only 7 women won chemistry prizes.