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Press Release No. 41 | 7 October 2020
DFG Congratulates Emmanuelle Charpentier on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

2016 Leibniz Prize winner shares the honour with Jennifer A. Doudna from the USA for their development of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) congratulates Professor Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier on being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020. The Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm today announced that the scientist from the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin and her American colleague Jennifer A. Doudna have been jointly awarded this year’s honour for their contribution to the development of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors.

DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker said: “The DFG congratulates Emmanuelle Charpentier, whose name is linked with the CRISPR-Cas9 method, one of the greatest breakthroughs made in the life sciences in recent decades. It was only quite recently, in 2016, that we honoured this groundbreaking achievement by awarding her the DFG’s Leibniz Prize.”

Charpentier had already received the Leibniz Prize for her discovery and development of this novel method of targeted genome editing. Charpentier’s work reflects her general interest in regulatory processes in infectious diseases caused by bacteria. In this field, she also conducted research into CRISPR-Cas, a bacterial immune mechanism that acts against phages. Charpentier – working in cooperation with Jennifer Doudna in Berkeley – was able to greatly simplify this originally highly complex system. This in turn became the starting point for the development and use of CRISPR-Cas9 as a cutting tool with which a genome can be modified at any point with a high degree of safety and efficiency. Compared to previous genome editing techniques, these RNA-based, programmable DNA scissors are a revolutionary development that is already being used all over the world.

Emmanuelle Charpentier is the ninth winner of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, established by the DFG in 1985, to go on and receive the Nobel Prize. Only yesterday, another Leibniz Prize winner, astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics – following Hartmut Michel (Chemistry, 1988), Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann (Medicine, 1991), Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Medicine, 1995), Theodor Hänsch (Physics, 2005), Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry, 2007) and Stefan Hell (Chemistry, 2014).

Further information

Video portrait of Emmanuelle Charpentier marking the award of the Gottfried Leibniz Wilhelm Prize 2016:

Further information on Emmanuelle Charpentier’s DFG-funded research projects:

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