2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for CRISPR/Cas9 ‘Genetic Scissors’

Two girls scientists gained the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for creating genetic ‘scissors’ that may rewrite the code of life, contributing to new most cancers therapies and holding out the prospect of curing hereditary illnesses.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, who’s French, and American Jennifer Doudna share the SEK 10 million (roughly Rs. eight crores) prize for growing the CRISPR/Cas9 instrument to edit the DNA of animals, vegetation and microorganisms with precision.

“The ability to cut the DNA where you want has revolutionised the life sciences,” Pernilla Wittung Stafshede of the Swedish Academy of Sciences instructed an award ceremony.

Charpentier, 51, and Doudna, 56, turn out to be the sixth and seventh girls to win a Nobel for chemistry, becoming a member of Marie Curie, who gained in 1911, and extra lately, Frances Arnold, in 2018.

It is the primary time since 1964, when Britain’s Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin alone gained the award, that no males are among the many winners of the chemistry prize.

Charpentier, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, mentioned she was “very emotional” after getting a name from Stockholm with the information.

“When it happens you are very surprised, and you feel that it is not real,” she mentioned. “But obviously it is real so I have to get used to it now.”

Controversial area

The path from discovery to prize has taken lower than a decade a comparatively brief interval by Nobel requirements.

And, though CRISPR had been broadly tipped to win the Chemistry prize, there has additionally been concern about attainable misuse of the expertise, for instance to create made-to-order ‘designer babies‘.

“The enormous power of this technology means that we need to use it with great care,” mentioned Claes Gustafsson, chair 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.”

CRISPR is a crowded area, with a number of claims on discovery resulting in fierce patent disputes. Gustafsson deflected a query on whether or not the prize committee had thought-about different contenders for the award.

Ancient micro organism

Charpentier’s breakthrough got here in the examine of historic micro organism, Streptococcus pyogenes, when she discovered {that a} beforehand unknown molecule was a part of its immune system and was able to ‘cleaving’ DNA.

She printed her findings in 2011 and, in that yr, joined forces with biochemist Doudna, of the University of California, Berkeley, to recreate the micro organism’s genetic scissors in a check tube.

DNA is a string with as much as 6 billion coded directions that inform a cell what to do. The fantastic thing about CRISPR/Cas9 is that it can’t solely snip DNA on the proper spot, but additionally restore the be a part of in order that errors don’t creep in.

Today CRISPR/Cas9 is a standard instrument in biochemistry and molecular biology labs, used in plant remedies and to develop novel remedies of hereditary human illnesses equivalent to sickle-cell anaemia.

“We can now easily edit genomes as desired, something that before was hard, even impossible,” mentioned Wittung Stafshede.

In conserving with custom, chemistry is the third prize introduced yearly and follows these for medication and physics earlier this week.

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace had been created and funded in the desire of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901, with the economics award a later addition.

Like a lot else, the pandemic has redrawn the Nobels, with lots of the conventional occasions, such because the grand banquet, cancelled or moved on-line at the same time as analysis into the illness, above all of the hunt for a vaccine, has dominated the scientific highlight.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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