Emmanuelle Charpentier is group leader at MIMS and guest professor at Umeå Centre for Microbial Research at Umeå University.
She and the other laureate Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley, are recognized for their work demonstrating that Cas9 – an enzyme specialized for cutting DNA – can be programmed with single RNA molecules, creating a simple and versatile system for genome targeting and editing. CRISPR-Cas9 is based on a defense system that bacteria use to protect themselves from viruses and was co-discovered by Charpentier during her time at MIMS in collaboration with the group of Jennifer Doudna.
According to Umeå University, the technique resulting from their findings allows researchers to target and cut DNA with great precision and therefore improves the speed, efficiency and flexibility of genome editing. This new understanding enables researchers to rapidly model human disease alleles in the laboratory, speeding the search for new drug leads and opening new doors for the treatment of human genetic disorders.
“I feel extremely honoured by this award and am very pleased to join the list of exceptional winners,” said Charpentier in a statement.
The award is presented by the biotechnology and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and is endowed with prize money of USD 100,000. The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research was created by Johnson & Johnson to honour the legacy of scientist Dr. Paul Janssen.