US-French Duo Win Nobel Chemistry Prize For Gene Editing Tool

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Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the US on Wednesday won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA snipping “scissors”, the first time a Nobel science prize has gone to a women-only team.

Using the tool, “researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision,” the Nobel jury said.

“This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”

The technique has been tipped for a Nobel nod several times in the past, but speaking to reporters in Stockholm via telephone link Charpentier said the call was still a surprise.

“Strangely enough I was told a number of times (it might happen) but when it happens you are very surprised and you feel that it’s not real,” she said.

“But obviously it is real so I have to get used to it now,” she added.

Charpentier, 51, and Doudna, 56, are just the sixth and seventh women to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Charpentier played down her gender, saying she considered herself “a scientist” first, but nonetheless hoped the prize would provide “a really strong message for young girls”.

While researching a common harmful bacteria, Charpentier discovered a previously unknown molecule — part of the bacteria’s ancient immune system that disarms viruses by snipping off parts of their DNA.

After publishing her research in 2011, Charpentier worked with Doudna to recreate the bacteria’s genetic scissors, simplifying the tool so it was easier to use and apply to other genetic material.

They then reprogrammed the scissors to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined site — paving the way for scientists to rewrite the code of life where the