2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2 female scientists, for genome-splicing breakthrough.
This is the big news this year in science and why I am featuring these two remarkable women. They are most proud of the message it is sending to other young girls that Science is cool. With the pandemic raging across the planet, what caught my attention, was the implications for helping find a cure. A Streptococcus bacteria (below), their Segway, almost killed my mom when it developed into pneumonia in 1957. She was allergic to the cure, the antibiotic penicillin. This is where the new findings can fit with genetic scissors. Implications are exciting.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday to two scientists, Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna, “for the development of a method for genome editing,” the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.
“Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants, and microorganisms with extremely high precision,” the academy explained. “This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies, and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”
Charpentier published her discovery about a molecular tool in the Streptococcus bacteria that can cleave DNA in 2011, and she and Doudna refashioned those genetic scissors so they could “cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site,” making it “easy to rewrite the code of life,” the academy wrote. “Since Charpentier and Doudna discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors in 2012 their use has exploded.”
The “enormous power of this technology means we have to use it with great care,” said Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, but it “is equally clear that this is a technology, a method that will provide humankind with great opportunities.”
“I was very emotional, I have to say,” Charpentier said from Berlin, where she works at the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens. “My wish is that this will provide a positive message to the young girls who would like to follow the path of science, and to show them that women in science can also have an impact through the research that they are performing.”
Two other women won Nobel Prizes this year, Louise Glück in Literature, who is a past winner, and Andrea M. Ghez in Physics. Ghez is the fourth ever woman to receive a Nobel prize in physics, this for her collaborative work with black holes.
Here are the four women winners this year.