Emmanuelle Charpentier honoured with the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry


The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry to NC PI Prof. Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Scientific and Managing Director of the newly established Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin for her groundbreaking work on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. She shares the prize with Jennifer Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

"This year’s prize is about re-writing the code of life,” said Secretary General Göran K. Hansson for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, as he awarded the prize to American biologist Jennifer Doudna and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier.
Only five women have previously won the chemistry prize, which has been awarded 111 times between 1901 and 2019 to 183 people.
“I am overwhelmed and deeply honoured to receive a prize of such high distinction and look forward to video-celebrating this exceptional award with my team members, colleagues, family and friends,” commented Emmanuelle Charpentier. 

           Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna (picture: nobelprize.org)

Considered a revolution in the fields of medicine, biotechnology and agriculture, the CRISPR-Cas9 technology is a powerful and versatile tool to specifically and efficiently modify any genetic sequence in the cells of living organisms.

Back in the 2000’s, CRISPR-Cas was originally described as an adaptive immune system in bacteria and archaea to fight off viral attacks. In 2011, Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories (now Max Perutz Labs) at the University of Vienna and at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) at Umeå University and her laboratory published a seminal article in Nature describing the identification of tracrRNA as an essential component – together with the CRISPR RNA and Cas9 – for the activation of the CRISPR-Cas9 viral defense mechanism in the human pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes and other bacterial species.

One year later, in 2012, Charpentier and her laboratory were able to demonstrate that CRISPR-Cas9 is a dual-tracrRNA-CRISPR RNA enzyme that cleaves DNA sequence-specifically. The system was then developed into a precise gene-editing tool that can correct defective DNA, much like a text editing software can edit or correct typos in a document. The details of the DNA targeting mechanism by the CRISPR-Cas9 system and the guidelines how to use it as a versatile genetic tool to modify the genome of cells and organisms were published in the journal Science in 2012 with the study done in collaboration with Jennifer Doudna’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

Commenting on her award, Charpentier said:
"My wish is that this sends a message to young girls who want to follow the path of science and shows them that women in science can also have an influence through their research".

Have a look the video of the award ceremony:
Video Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Prof. Emmanuelle Charpentier
NeuroCure Member
Max-Planck-Forschungsstelle für die Wissenschaft der Pathogene (MPUSP)
Charitéplatz 1
10117 Berlin

Source: Press Release Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

More information: Charpentier Lab

Go back