2020 Chemistry Nobel Prize: Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna

History has been created this year in the field of science. Two female scientists were awarded by the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their revolutionary discovery. According to the Nobel Committee, this year’s chemistry Nobel is for “the rewriting the code of life”.


2020 Chemistry Nobel Prize: Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna


Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have discovered the most accurate tool for gene editing. We can say these are the genetic scissors that can cut genes, and now we know these genetic scissors as CRISPR/Cas9.

By using this tool, scientists can be able to edit/modify the DNA of any living organism with extreme accuracy.



Emmanuelle Charpentier works with Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, Berlin. She was born in France in 1968. She has a doctorate in 1995 from Pasteur Institute, France.

Jennifer Doudna works at the University of California Berkeley, USA. She was born in 1964 and has a doctorate in 1989 from Harvard Medical School in Boston.


Genetic Scissors Tools To Rewrite The Threads Of Life

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have discovered a new tool for genetic editing, called CRISPR/Cas9. With this technology it is easy to make desirable changes in the DNA of animals, plants, and micro-organisms.

This technique has left a revolutionary impact on biology, in which we can fulfill alternative methods of treatment of diseases like cancer and the treatment of hereditary disease.

Researchers need to modify genes in cells if they are to find out about life’s inner workings. This used to be time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, it is now possible to change the code of life over the course of a few weeks.

According to Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee on Chemistry 

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments”



As so often in science, the discovery of these genetic scissors was unexpected. During Emmanuelle Charpentier’s studies of Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium that caused the most damage to humanity, she found the previously unknown molecule tracrRNA.

Emmanuel found out that tracrRNA is part of bacteria’s ancient immune system, this molecule can be cut from the DNA of this bacterium using CRISPR / Cas scissors.

Emmanuel published its discovery in 2011. In the same year, she started working with Jennifer Doudna, an experienced biochemist with vast knowledge about RNA. 

Together they developed Genetic Scissors to cut the chromosome of Bacteria into a test tube and simplified the molecular structure of this Genetic scissor in such a way that it became easy to use them.

In this revolutionary experiment, they reprogrammed the genetic scissors. In its natural form, it can recognize the DNA from the virus, but Charpentier and Doudna proved that they could be controlled so that they can cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site. Where the DNA is cut it is, then easy to rewrite the code of life. We can rewrite the code of life at the place from which DNA is cut.

Ever since Charpentier and Doudna discovered this CRISPR / Cas9 Genetic Scissors, they have been increasingly used by other scientists. There have been many fundamental discoveries using this tool.

Botanists are using this to make crops that are protected from insects, fungi, diseases, and famines. In the field of medicine, a new medical system is being developed to fight and prevent diseases like cancer.

With this technology, the dream of eradication hereditary diseases is about to become a reality. These genetic scissors have taken biology to a new height, and they are proving to be the most effective technology for humanity.


Why the name CRISPR/Cas?

CRISPR is an abbreviation for clustered regularly, interspace short palindromic repeats. These sequences are a part of the bacteria’s immune system.

Bacteria that have survived a virus infection add a piece of the genetic code of the virus into its genome as a memory of the infection. Besides these CRISPR sequences, researchers discovered special genes called CRISPR-associated, abbreviated as cas9.


What Was The Controversy On CRISPR/Cas9 Technology?

In 2018, a geneticist from China, He Jiankui claimed that he altered the genes of twin girls born this month to create the first gene-edited babies.

He said that he used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to edit the genes of twin girls. The editing process, which he calls gene surgery, “worked safely as intended” and the girls are “as healthy as any other babies”, he said in a video.


Rajat Red

Admin and Founder of "UNTOLD SCIENCE | Exploring The World Of Science & Nature". He is a science student pursuing B.Sc in Biology from India. He is a curious being and an explorer, who has an interest in many fields besides science. But, He loves to study and write about science.

Leave a Reply