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US-French Duo win Nobel Prize for Gene Editing Tool

Adya Menon

15th October 2020

Jennifer A Doudna, Professor at the University of California and Emmanuel Charpentier, Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, Germany, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9 DNA Snipping, colloquially called “scissors”. In layman's tongue, the CRISPR methods enable scientists to safely remove and replace individual sections of DNA and map its sequence with incredible accuracy.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France (left) and Jennifer Doudna of the U.S. won the Nobel Prize(Source: The Hindu AFP)

According to a report from The Medical Xpress, the Nobel Committee praised the laureates’ achievements. "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."

Professor Charpentier, 51, and Professor Doudna, 56, are just the sixth and seventh women to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and this is the first time a Nobel science prize will go to a women-only team. Speaking of the experience of getting a Nobel Prize to a reporter from Stockholm, Professor Charpentier mentioned that she was quite surprised on getting the call. She said that she felt like it wasn’t happening for a minute, but then she brought herself around to get to grips with being a Nobel Prize winner. In a Hindu report, she quotes, “I consider myself a scientist first, but I hope this prize makes for a powerful message for young girls”.

The potential uses of CRISPR technology are virtually endless, and the intuitive nature of its necessary procedure makes it one of the most discussed scientific developments of the modern age. It has been adopted in limited forms everywhere from experimental cancer research to a Marvel TV character. However, as with all such scientific advancements, there have been cases of misuse as well. The most infamous being the twin sisters Lulu and Nana, who were experimented on with improvised CRISPR by a Chinese scientist when they were still embryonic. With the objective being to create an HIV immune human being. The ethics and laws of such new and developing techniques need to be established and enforced. But overall, the CRISPR process that experts like A Doudna and Charpentier are perfecting is slated to be a highly beneficial scientific tool in the future.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the customary ceremony had to be replaced with a televised event where the winners got their rewards in their own homes. Charpentier and Doudna will share the prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor, about $1.1 million for their extraordinary achievements.

News Sources: The Hindu, The Medical Xpress, The Local

Edited by: Aayush Lahoti

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