Royal Society congratulates winners of Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020

07 October 2020

The Royal Society offers its congratulations to the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020, which was awarded jointly to Jennifer A. Doudna, Foreign Member of the Royal Society and a winner of the Society’s Croonian Medal and Lecture (2018), and Emmanuelle Charpentier “for the development of a method for genome editing”.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: “On behalf of the Royal Society, I would like to offer my warm congratulations to Professors Doudna and Charpentier. CRISPR/Cas9 has been part of researchers’ toolkit for less than a decade, but in this time it has transformed the life sciences beyond recognition.

“The story of CRISPR/Cas9 shows us how following the thread of basic science can eventually set off a revolution decades later. In this case, unearthing a quirk of the bacterial immune system led to deciphering its mechanism and the development of a tool to efficiently and precisely edit any section of the human genome. Serendipity, inspiration and collaboration all played a part. The full applications of gene editing, for human health, agriculture, conservation are only just beginning to be realised, and I fully expect this powerful technology to continue to change these fields in the coming decades.

“We must also recognise that the development of CRIPSR/Cas9 as a tool for genome editing also raises significant questions for scientists and society at large.  A report by the International Commission on Human Germline Genome Editing, convened by the Society and US National Academies, made clear they are not ready to be used to make heritable changes in humans.  The implications for individuals and societies will need to be discussed and regulated at both a national and international level.”