The work: In 2012 Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna published the description of a revolutionary new genome editing technology that uses an engineered single-guide RNA together with the DNA-cleaving enzyme Cas9 to readily manipulate the genomic DNA of individual cells. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology has given biologists the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or altering genes with high efficiency and precision. Their collective work has led to the breakthrough discovery of DNA cleavage by Cas9, a dual RNA- guided enzyme whose ability to cut double-stranded DNA can be programmed by changing the guide RNA sequence. Recognizing that such an activity could be employed as a molecular tool for precision genome engineering in various kinds of cells, their teams redesigned the natural dual-RNA guide as a single-guide RNA (sgRNA), creating an easy-to-use two component system.
The impact: This technology is transforming the fields of molecular genetics, genomics, agriculture and environmental biology. RNA-guided Cas9 complexes are effective genome engineering agents in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology is being used in thousands of laboratories around the world to advance biological research by engineering cells and organisms in precise ways.
Emmanuelle Charpentier is Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany. She is Alexander von Humboldt Professor in Germany and Visiting Professor at Umeå University in Sweden. E. Charpentier is recognized as a world-leading expert in regulatory mechanisms underlying processes of infection and immunity in bacterial pathogens. With her recent groundbreaking findings in the field of RNA-mediated regulation based on the CRISPR-Cas9 system, E. Charpentier has laid the foundation for the development of a novel, highly versatile and specific genome editing technology that is revolutionizing life sciences research and could open up whole new opportunities in biomedical gene therapies. The resulting field of research is now developing at dazzling speed, with exciting new aspects emerging almost weekly. E. Charpentier is Elected Foreign Member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Elected Member of the German National Academy of Sciences, Elected Member of the European Academy of Microbiology, Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and Elected EMBO Member. E. Charpentier has been awarded prestigious honors including an Honorary Doctorate of the New York University, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize 2016, French Chevalier Order de la Légion d’Honneur in 2016, Leibniz Prize 2016, the Otto Warburg Medal 2016, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award 2016, the Carus-Medal of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina 2015, the Gruber Prize in Genetics 2015, the Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 2015, the 2015 Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the 2015 Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine, the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the 2014 Grand Prix Jean-Pierre LeCocq and the 2014 Göran Gustafsson Prize. The impact of her scientific accomplishments has also been recognized in the broader community of world affairs. E. Charpentier was selected as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015, one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers in 2014, one of Vanity Fair’s 50 most influential French people worldwide in 2014 and 2015. E. Charpentier is inventor and co-owner of seminal intellectual property comprising the CRISPR-Cas9 technology, and co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics and ERS Genomics, created to facilitate the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering technology for biotechnological and biomedical purposes.