Creators of Gene ‘Scissors’ Clinch Nobel as Women Sweep Chemistry | World News
By Niklas Pollard, Douglas Busvine and Daniel Trotta
STOCKHOLM/BERLIN (Reuters) – Two scientists won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for creating genetic ‘scissors’ that can rewrite the code of life, contributing to new cancer therapies and holding out the prospect of curing hereditary diseases.
Emmanuelle Charpentier, who is French, and American Jennifer Doudna share the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.1 million) prize for developing the CRISPR/Cas9 tool to edit the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with precision.
“The ability to cut the DNA where you want has revolutionized the life sciences,” Pernilla Wittung Stafshede of the Swedish Academy of Sciences told an award ceremony.
Charpentier, 51, and Doudna, 56, become the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel for chemistry, joining Marie Curie, who won in 1911, and more recently, Frances Arnold, in 2018.
It is the first time since 1964, when Britain’s Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin alone won the award, that no men are among the chemistry prize winners.
Charpentier, of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, told journalists in Berlin she was “extremely emotional and extremely moved” by the award, which came as a complete surprise even though she had been tipped as contender.
The first Nobel won by two women showed how “science becomes more modern and develops more female leaders”, she said after setting down a glass of wine to pose for the cameras alongside a bust of Planck, the 1918 Physics Nobel laureate.
The head of the Academy had to ask Charpentier for Doudna’s cellphone number to break the news, only to be beaten to the punch by a reporter – at 3 a.m. on the U.S. West Coast. “She wanted to know if I could comment on the Nobel and I said, ‘Well, who won it?’,” Doudna