CRISPR bags Nobel
Two scientists have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing the CRISPR gene-editing tool.
Scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing CRISPR-Cas9.
The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system is adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria.
The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays.
These arrays allow the bacteria to ‘remember’ the virus (or closely related ones), so if it attacks again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses' DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.
Because of this tool, genomes can now be edited to fix genetic damage.
“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” said the chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, Claes Gustafsson.
“It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”
He said that the “enormous power of this technology means we have to use it with great care”, but it “is equally clear that this is a technology, a method that will provide humankind with great opportunities”.
Professor Charpentier of France and Professor Doudna of the USA are the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel for chemistry, joining the likes of Marie Curie, who won in 1911, and Frances Arnold in 2018.