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College of Arts and Sciences

Nobel Chemistry winner an ‘exemplary scientific citizen'

By: Staff
A&S Communications
October 7, 2020

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded on Wednesday to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for their 2012 work on the development of Crispr-Cas9, a method for genome editing. This is the first time a Nobel Prize has been awarded to two women.

Ailong Ke, a chemistry professor at Cornell University, is a CRISPR expert who trained as a postdoc with Nobel winner Jennifer Doudna. Ke says Charpentier and Doudna will serve as role models for the next generation of women interested in STEM:

"Today’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognizes the pioneering contribution of two women scientists, Emmanualle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, for their adaptation of the CRISPR-Cas system for genome editing applications. Their story was a perfect example of how curiosity-driven basic science eventually led to revolutions in technology and medicine. None of the early scientists joined the CRISPR field for the sake of inventing genome editing. People were driven by the desire to understand how an RNA-guided immunity system called CRISPR works in bacteria. Emmanuelle and Jennifer’s work stood out among peers in originality, quality, and impact. They were the first to reconstitute CRISPR-Cas9, demonstrate the versatility, and point out the potential applications in genome editing. They are truly deserving!

"As a former postdoctoral trainee with Jennifer Doudna, I’d like to point out that her work has been consistently top-notch throughout her career. Starting from her pioneering structural work self-cleaving ribozymes, she left her mark in many important fields, including the IRES-mediated ribosome initiation, the structures of the signal recognition particle, the structure of the RNA interference enzyme dicer, and so on. You simply cannot avoid her force field when you come to RNA meetings. She trained a generation of successful RNA scientists. She stepped out of her comfort zone to be involved in policymaking for the genome editing field. She is an exemplary scientific citizen.

"This is also a huge moment for women in STEM. The award effectively increased the women representation in Nobel Chemistry from five to seven – one small step in the right direction. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna will serve as great role models for the next-generation women interested in STEM.”

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