Creator of CRISPR-Cas9 awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Professor Charpentier receives the award jointly with her colleague Dr Jennifer Doudna

Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

Emmanuelle co-founded ERS Genomics in 2014 together with Rodger Novak and Shaun Foy, and is also founding, scientific and Managing Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens and honorary Professor at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

“We have been looking forward to this day for some time and we at ERS are so pleased for Emmanuelle. We offer our hearty congratulations for this well-deserved recognition of her fundamental contribution to the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 platform and its application to genome editing," said Eric Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer of ERS Genomics.

“Receiving the prestigious Nobel Prize, the highest distinction in science, is an extraordinary honor. I am very grateful and truly moved to receive this recognition for our work on the CRISPR-Cas9 system,” commented Emmanuelle Charpentier.

CRISPR-Cas9 technology is a tool to specifically and efficiently modify any genetic sequence in the cells of living organisms. The mechanism was originally discovered as an adaptive immune response in bacteria to fight off viral attacks.

In 2011, Emmanuelle Charpentier’s laboratory identified an essential component of the CRISPR-mediated viral defense mechanism, the tracrRNA, which subsequently led to a seminal publication in the journal Nature.

One year later, Charpentier’s laboratory was 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 on how to use it as a versatile genetic tool were published in the journal Science in 2012 within the frame of a collaboration with Jennifer Doudna’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.