STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A pair of scientists have taken the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a revolutionary gene-editing technique that allows the DNA of animals, plants and even microorganisms to be manipulated with profound precision.
Jennifer A. Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist, developed the CRISPR/Cas9, likened to “molecular scissors,” that is already in use as a cancer therapy and holds tremendous promise for curing inherited diseases.
“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life,” Goran K. Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said during the prize’s announcement in Stockholm on Wednesday.
According to The Washington Post, a human cell contains about 6 billion chemical units of DNA, and CRISPR/Cas9 can locate and cut just one, resulting in the common scissor comparison.
“We can now change the genetic information in any cell in any organism,” Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said during Wednesday’s ceremony.
And because Doudna and Charpentier actually made the discovery eight years ago, the tool has already been used in research laboratories across the globe for everything from transforming the patterns of butterfly wings and the creation of mutant ants to plant breeding and cutting-edge sickle cell disease drug therapies, the Post reported.
“This is definitely a very expected prize for me,” Luis Echegoyen, president of the American Chemical Society, told the newspaper, adding, “It’s going to change the world and how we treat diseases.”
Wednesday’s announcement also marks the first time in the prestigious program’s history that two women have won the chemistry prize in tandem, CNN reported.
“I wish that this will provide a positive message, specifically, to young girls who would like to follow the path of science,” Charpentier told reporters Wednesday morning.
Doudna and Charpentier will split the prize, resulting in an award of about $560,000 each, CNN reported.
Read about the other 2020 Nobel laureates below:
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