•  Prof Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier, Brain City Berlin

    2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Emmanuelle Charpentier: Congratulations!

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has given top Berlin researcher Professor Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Professor Dr Jennifer A. Doudna the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. This was the first time that the award has gone to a women-only team. Emmanuelle Charpentier is Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens. The first woman to win the prize was Marie Curie in 1911. 

The CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing programme is considered revolutionary in medicine, biotechnology, and agriculture. The genetic engineering tool not only has a wide range of applications, it is also easy to use. Similar to text editing software that corrects typing errors in a document, CRISPR-CAS9 can control and edit faulty DNA. This allows the targeted correction of genetic material. For their groundbreaking work on CRISPR-CAS9, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded two women the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which comes with a cash prize of ten million kroner (around €950,000 euros) on 7 October: Professor Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier, Director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, and Professor Dr Jennifer A. Doudna, molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. 

In 2012, the two scientists published a groundbreaking study in the journal Science, which described how the CRISPR-Cas9 system specifically targets the DNA and how it can be used as a versatile genetic tool for modifying the genome. Marie Curie was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. 

©Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Emmanuelle Charpentier, who was born in France and studied biology, microbiology, and genetics in Paris, is regarded worldwide as a leading expert in the field of regulatory mechanisms underlying infection processes and the immunity of pathogenic bacteria. From 2015 to 2018, she was director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. Since 2018, she has been director at the Max Planck Research Institute for the Science of Pathogens. She also teaches as an honorary professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin and works as a project manager at the Berlin NeuroCure Cluster Excellence of the Charité - University Medicine, the Free University of Berlin, and the Humboldt University of Berlin.  The cluster works on new paths in the research and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. 

"We are very proud to have such an outstanding researcher in Berlin, our entire science location is happy with and for Professor Charpentier,” Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin, remarked. “It has opened a new chapter in medical research and her work is the basis for numerous other innovations. She is also making an important contribution to the development and attractiveness of Berlin as a leading international location for top research." 

Emanuelle Charpentier was overwhelmed by the award. "I am really amazed at the speed with which research on CRISPR and possible applications has developed in recent years," she remarked. "I'm looking forward to many more developments, especially those that can treat serious illnesses." 

In any case, the future location for further groundbreaking work by the top researcher and her team has already been secured. A historic school building on Alberechtstraße in Berlin-Mitte will be converted and expanded into a state-of-the-art laboratory building for the Max Planck Research Center for the Science of Pathogens. The State of Berlin is participating with financial support. (vdo)

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