2 female scientists win Nobel Prize in Chemistry for genome editing tool

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the two scientists who discovered CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology, the first time the prize has been shared between two women.

The award, announced Oct. 7, was split between University of California, Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna, PhD, and France’s Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD. The pair worked together to develop CRISPR-Cas9, the tool that allows researchers to cut out a piece of a genome and replace it with another piece of DNA.

The tool has been adopted quickly by research labs, as its ability to target more than one gene at a time makes genome editing much more efficient. CRISPR-Cas9 has also brought about the formation of numerous startups, which have garnered hundreds of millions of investment dollars to develop new therapies for genetic diseases, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all,” Claes Gustafsson, PhD, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a news release. “It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Only five other women had ever been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since its 1901 inception. Dr. Doudna and Dr. Charpentier brought the prize’s total number of female recipients to seven out of 185.

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