The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing.
While some research advances take decades for people to fully appreciate how transformative they are, that wasn’t the case for this new tool, known as CRISPR-Cas9.
“Once in a long time, an advance comes along that utterly transforms an entire field and does so very rapidly,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which has long supported Doudna’s research. “You cannot walk into a molecular biology laboratory today, working on virtually any organism, where CRISPR-Cas9 is not playing a role in the ability to understand how life works and how disease happens. It’s just that powerful.”
For two women to share the Nobel Prize in chemistry is unusual. Between 1901 and 2020, it has been awarded to 185 individuals, and only seven of them have been women. In recent years, the Nobel committees have been trying to increase the diversity of researchers nominated for the science Nobel Prizes, which have been criticized for historically overlooking the achievements of both women and people of color.