Remarkably, the prize goes to two women this year: Charpentier and Doudna are only the sixth and seventh woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry since 1901.
The CRISPR-Cas9 technique opens up a whole range of possibilities, says the Nobel committee.
With CRISPR-Cas9 you can change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms with a very high precision. To discover the role that certain genes play, researchers need to be able to change or turn them off. This used to be very time consuming and difficult, and sometimes even impossible, while now it is possible to change the code of life in a matter of weeks.
Although the technique is still relatively recent, it is clear that it has already had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences. It has contributed to many important discoveries in basic research and has enabled plant experts to develop new varieties of crop plants that are more resistant to fungi, insect pests and drought.
CRISPR-Cas9 has also contributed and continues to contribute to new cancer therapies and may one day fulfill the dream of curing hereditary diseases, the committee said. A lot of research is now being done on this.
“There is tremendous power in this genetic tool that affects us all,” said Claes Gustafsson, chairman of the Nobel Chemistry Committee. “Not only has it revolutionized fundamental science but it has also produced innovative breeding plants and will lead to breakthrough new medical treatments.”
The prize consists of a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor, about 1 million euros. That amount is divided by the two laureates.