Headline, October 12 2020/ ''' NOBEL : '' WOMEN '' PRIZE '''


''' NOBEL : 

'' WOMEN '' PRIZE '''

BERLIN / STOCKHOLM : WOMEN CREATORS OF GENETIC SCISSORS win Nobel Prize. No men among Chemistry prize winners for the first time since 1964.

TWO WOMEN SCIENTISTS WON THE 2020 NOBEL PRIZE in Chemistry last Wednesday for creating genetic scissors that can rewrite the code of life, contributing to new cancer therapies and holding out the prospect of curing hereditary diseases.

Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is French, and American Jennifer Doudna share the 10 million Swedish crown [$1.1. million] prize for developing the CRISPR/Cas9 tool to edit the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with precision.

''The ability to cut the DNA where you want has revolutionised the life sciences,'' Pernilla Wirrung Stafshede of the Swedish Academy of Sciences told an award ceremony.

Charpentier, 51, and Doudna, 56, become the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel prize for chemistry, joining Marie Curie, who won in 1932, and more recently, Francis Arnold, in 2018.

It is the first time since 1964, when Britain's Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin alone won the award, that NO MEN are among the chemistry prize winners.

Charpentier, of the Max Planck Institute for  the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, said she was ''very emotional'' after getting a call from Stockholm with the news.

''When it happens you are very surprised, and you feel that is not real,''  she said. ''But obviously it is real so I have to get used to it now.''

Doudna is already employing CRISPR in the battle against the coronavirus as co-founder of biotech startup Mammoth, which has tied up with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a test to detect infections.

'' What started as a curiosity driven, fundamental discovery project has now become the breakthrough strategy used by countless researchers working to help improve the human condition,'' Doudna said in a statement issued by Berkeley.


The path from discovery to prize has taken less than a decade - a relatively short period by Nobel standards.

And, although CRISPR has been tipped to win the Chemistry prize, there has also been concern that the technology could be misused, for example to create made-to-order 'designer babies'.

''The enormous power of this technology means that we need to use it great care,'' said Claes Gustafsson, chair 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.''

CRISPR is a crowded field, with competing claims on discovery triggering a patent dispute that continues between the prize winners and a team led by Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Gustafsson declined to say whether prize committee had considered other contenders. 


Charpentier's breakthrough came in the study of ancient bacteria, Streptococcus pyogenes, when she found that previously unknown molecules was part of its immune system and was capable of 'cleaving'  DNA.

She published her findings in 2011 and, in that year, joined forces with biochemist Doudhna, of the  University of California, Berkeley, to create the bacteria's genetic scissors in a test tube and simplifying that molecular composition to make them easier to use.

The duo published their findings in June 2012, seven months before the Broad Institute group, which however successfully filed a series of US patent applications and has claimed that its gene editing technology is better.

DNA is a string with up to 6 billion coded instructions to tell a cell what to do. The beauty of CRISPER / Cas9 is that it can not only snip DNA at the right spot, but also repair the join so that errors do not creep in. [Reuters]

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