Emmanuelle Charpentier, group leader at MIMS and guest professor at UCMR, Umeå University, is one of the awardees of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research 2014. The award is presented by the biotechnology and healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and is endowed with prize money of 100,000 US Dollars.
"I feel extremely honoured by this award and am very pleased to join the list of exceptional winners," said Charpentier. She and the other laureate Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley, are recognized for their work demonstrating that Cas9 – an enzyme specialized for cutting DNA – can be programmed with single RNA molecules, creating a simple and versatile system for genome targeting and editing.
CRISPR-Cas9 is based on a defense system that bacteria use to protect themselves from viruses and was co-discovered by Charpentier during her time at MIMS in collaboration with the group of Jennifer Doudna. The technique resulting from their findings allows researchers to target and cut DNA with great precision and therefore improves the speed, efficiency and flexibility of genome editing. This new understanding enables researchers to rapidly model human disease alleles in the laboratory, speeding the search for new drug leads and opening new doors for the treatment of human genetic disorders.
"I am excited about the potential of our findings to make a real difference in people's lives. The discovery demonstrates the relevance of basic research and how it can transform application in bioengineering and biomedicine," said Charpentier.
Since 2013, Emmanuelle Charpentier is head of the department "Regulation in Infection Biology" at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany, and Alexander von Humboldt Professor at Hannover Medical School. Recently The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honoured Charpentier with the Göran Gustafsson Prize in Molecular Biology and EMBO elected her as a new member.
The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research was created by Johnson & Johnson to honour the legacy of one of the most passionate, creative and productive scientists of the 20th century, Dr. Paul Janssen. He founded Janssen Pharmaceutica, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 1961. His work led to the development of more than 80 transformational medicines in several fields, including pain management, psychiatry, infectious disease and gastroenterology.
The awardees are chosen by an independent selection committee of the world's most renowned scientists. Doudna and Charpentier will be honoured today at parallel receptions at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego, and The EuroScience Open Forum in Copenhagen.
- Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
- Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier's department at Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) Braunschweig, Germany
- Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier's research group at MIMS
- Press release of Umeå University in Swedish
- Brief remarks of Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier on Youtube