Two Women Win Nobel Prize for Achievements in Genome Editing

Two female scientists were honored with the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their research in genome editing.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, who are the first two women to share the prize, developed Crispr-Cas9, or what they call "genetic scissors." The scissors can cut DNA at a precise location, allowing scientists to make precise changes to DNA. The Nobel Committee emphasized that the research will help contribute “to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”

Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said
in a statement of the women’s research: “There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionized basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

Of the honor, Prof. Charpentier, from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, said she was “very surprised” and initially thought it wasn’t real.

“But obviously it's real," she told the BBC, before adding: "I wish that this will provide a positive message specifically for young girls who would like to follow the path of science... and to show them that women in science can also have an impact with the research they are performing. This is not just for women, but we see a clear lack of interest in following a scientific path, which is very worrying."

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to 185 individuals between 1901 and 2020 with a mere seven of them being women.

In addition to Charpentier and Doudna, astrophysicist Andrea Ghez won the Prize for Physics alongside fellow astrophysicists Roger Penrose and Reinhard Genzel for their work on black holes. 

Ghez’s role in the research involved a decades-long investigation into a black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, as per the New York Times. Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, after Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963, and Donna Strickland in 2018.

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