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2020 Chemistry Nobel Prize: the Winner is...CRISPR!

This year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin) and Jennifer Doudna (University of California, Berkeley) for their work with CRISPR-Cas9. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are a sequence of nucleotides originally found in bacterial DNA and serve as an evolutionary immune response against foreign DNA. Charpentier and Doudna pioneered the research of these “molecular scissors” that can be used as a tool for genome editing. This discovery came unexpectedly when Charpentier noticed an unknown molecule, tracrRNA, in bacteria. After publishing this discovery in 2011, Charpentier began working with Doudna to reprogram the genetic scissors so they would be able to function in DNA at any particular site. This tool for genome editing is significant because it has the possibility to cure many heritable diseases, such as cancers. This year’s prize is special because it is the first time two women have been awarded the Nobel Prize, but also sparks controversy, as some disagree that Charpentier and Doudna should be credited with its official discovery. Nevertheless, this new tool has tremendous potential.


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