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

Two ladies 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 ailments.

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

“The flexibility to chop the DNA the place you need has revolutionised the life sciences,” Pernilla Wittung Stafshede of the Swedish Academy of Sciences advised an award ceremony.

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

It’s the first 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 occurs you might be very stunned, and you’re feeling that it’s not actual,” she mentioned. “However clearly it’s actual so I’ve to get used to it now.”

Controversial discipline

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

And, though CRISPR had been extensively 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 infants’.

“The large energy of this expertise signifies that we have to use it with nice care,” mentioned Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

“However it’s equally clear that this can be a expertise, a technique that can present humankind with nice alternatives.”

CRISPR is a crowded discipline, 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 of different contenders for the award.

Historic micro organism

Charpentier’s breakthrough got here within 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 12 months, joined forces with biochemist Doudna, of the College 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 great thing about CRISPR/Cas9 is that it can’t solely snip DNA on the proper spot, but in addition restore the be part of in order that errors don’t creep in.

In the present day CRISPR/Cas9 is a typical device in biochemistry and molecular biology labs, utilized in plant remedies and to develop novel remedies of hereditary human ailments akin to sickle-cell anaemia.

“We will now simply edit genomes as desired, one thing that earlier than was arduous, even unattainable,” mentioned Wittung Stafshede.

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

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace have been created and funded within the will 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 most 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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