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Gene-editing with CRISPR/Cas9

With the help of the CRISPR/Cas9 systems, the genomes of the most various organisms can be edited. But how does the new gene technology with the unpronounceable name work?

Background

Sometimes a single discovery can change a whole life. For Emmanuelle Charpentier, deciphering the functioning of an enzyme previously known only to experts was such a moment. The trio comprised of one enzyme and two RNA molecules and known as CRISPR-Cas made headlines far beyond the world of science. Since then, a lot of things have changed in the French woman’s life. She became a Director at the Berlin-based Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in early October 2015.

Emmanuelle Charpentier

February 07, 2017

Sometimes a single discovery can change a whole life. For Emmanuelle Charpentier, deciphering the functioning of an enzyme previously known only to experts was such a moment. The trio comprised of one enzyme and two RNA molecules and known as CRISPR-Cas made headlines far beyond the world of science. Since then, a lot of things have changed in the French woman’s life. She became a Director at the Berlin-based Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in early October 2015. [more]

Genome Editing

Gene scissors, molecular scalpel – these descriptive terms are intended to convey what the new method of gene editing with rather unwieldy name of CRISPR-Cas9 can do. As they suggest, the system, which, in its natural form, consists of two RNA molecules and one protein molecule, can cleave the hereditary molecule DNA. Moreover, it can do this with surgical precision at a specific site in the genome. This enables researchers to switch genes off or insert new sequences at the cutting site. As a result, DNA can be modified much faster and more easily than was possible using previous gene-editing methods. Although the system basically sounds simple, various factors must be coordinated with extreme precision for the gene scissors to be able to function with such accuracy. For this reason, even after 30 years of research, the functioning of CRISPR-Cas9 is still not entirely understood. [more]

Japan Prize 2017

The Max Planck Society congratulates Emmanuelle Charpentier on winning 2017 Japan Prize

Prestigious Japan Prize goes to Max Planck scientist for a third time

February 06, 2017

It is often referred to as the Japanese Nobel Prize: 88 prize winners from 13 countries have received it since it was awarded for the first time in 1985 - including many later Nobel Prize Laureates. Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, and Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley, receive this year's Japan Prize for the development of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique, a type of very efficient genetic 'scissors'. Adi Shamir, from the Weizmann Institute, Israel, is honoured for his pioneering research on cryptography. The award ceremony will take place on April 19 at the National Theater in Tokyo.
Emmanuelle Charpentier receives the 2017 Japan Prize in Life Sciences jointly with Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley. Zoom Image
Emmanuelle Charpentier receives the 2017 Japan Prize in Life Sciences jointly with Jennifer A. Doudna from the University of California, Berkeley.

The CRISPR-Cas9 system of bacteria can be used as an extremely precise tool to edit genetic material and study gene function, raising hope that CRISPR-Cas9 can be used to develop new treatment options for serious human diseases in the future. This discovery was a milestone for molecular biology, and has already won many prizes. Charpentier has received, amongst other, such prestigious awards as the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine as well as the Paul-Ehrlich-und-Ludwig-Darmstaedter Prize.

The Max Planck Society offers its warmest congratulations to Emmanuelle Charpentier on winning this major award. "I am particularly delighted that a scientist is being honoured who is still in midst of her research career. I hope that this also serves as a motivation for other young women in science", said Max Planck President Martin Stratmann.

This year's prize winner in the category 'Electronics, Information and Communication': Adi Shamir from the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot. Zoom Image
This year's prize winner in the category 'Electronics, Information and Communication': Adi Shamir from the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot.
The expectations for this technology, called genome editing, are incredibly high.  The Max Planck Society appointed Charpentier in 2015. She is the Max Planck Society's third Japan Prize Laureate. Previously, Gerhard Ertl (1992) and Jozef Schell (1998) had already received the Japan Prize.

The cryptology expert and 2002 Turing prize winner Adi Shamir, from the Weinzmann Institute, Rehovot, also receives this year's prize in the field of “Electronics, Information and Communication”. Shamir was the Keynote Speaker at the Max Planck Society's Annual Meeting 2016. Shamir has developed the 'RSA cryptosystem', an innovative encryption technology, as well as mathematical methods, which enable an identification of individuals in the field of information security without the need to disclose the closures.

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