An American biochemist who grew up in Hilo and graduated from Hilo High School is one of the co-recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Jennifer Doudna, a professor at UC Berkeley, is best known for her work in genome editing, particularly with regard to the CRISPR-Cas system. French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany, is the other co-recipient of the 2020 award.
The discoveries made by Doudna and Charpentier have been called revolutionary, perhaps described best in a recent op-ed by the New York Times as a way to ‘turn the curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool than can edit DNA.’
Scientists say CRISPR allows for the rewriting of DNA by cutting very precise portions of those strands at the molecular level and inserting new chunks of DNA into living organisms, which may one day change how mankind treats diseases.
Earlier this year, for example, researchers in Oregon said they had used the gene editing tool inside someone’s body for the first time in an attempt to cure blindness.