Pioneers of CRISPR gene editing win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Nobel Prize in Chemistry for gene editing

Date: 7th October 2020

Since the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, in the early 1950s, scientists have dreamed about the possibility of artificially modifying DNA to change the functions of an organism.  Now a firm reality, genetic engineering is more precise and accessible than ever before, and behind the gene editing revolution firmly lies the CRISPR-Cas system (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats).

In 1987, Yoshizumi Ishino and colleagues from Osaka University first described what would later be called CRISPR however, the function of the interrupted clustered repeats remained a mystery for several years.

It was not until 2012, that Emmanuelle Charpentier, then based at Umeå University, Sweden, in collaboration with Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California, US, first proposed that CRISPR-Cas9 could be used for programmable editing of genomes.  Also reporting that the CRISPR RNAs (crRNAs) and the trans-activating crRNA (tracrRNA) could be fused together to create a single, synthetic guide, further simplifying the system.

Today, The Royal Swedish Academy of Science has decided to jointly award the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, for the development of a method for genome editing.


For more information please see the press release

Jinek, M., K. Chylinski, I. Fonfara, M. Hauer, J. A. Doudna and E. Charpentier (2012). “A Programmable Dual-RNA–Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity.” Science 337(6096): 816-821.