Houston, TX, USA. 18 April 2015.
The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT, Inc.) is proud to announce that the 11th ISTT Prize will be co-awarded to Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer Doudna for their collaborative work on the CRISPR-Cas9 system that is rapidly advancing the field of transgenic research. The ISTT Prize is awarded to investigators who have made outstanding contributions to the field of transgenic technologies. The awardees for the 11th ISTT Prize were chosen by the ISTT Prize Committee, which consists of the ISTT President and Vice president, the CEO of genOway (the company that generously sponsors the award), and all previous ISTT prize awardees.
The Award Committee unanimously considered that Drs. Doudna and Charpentier’s work represents a major improvement in gene editing technology and molecular biology and allows the creation of precisely gene modified animal models faster than ever. They are both prominent biochemists whose pioneering work in the field of RNA regulation and elucidating the CRISPR-Cas systems in bacteria has resulted in the development of new tools to generate specific gene knock-out and knock-in animals without the requirement for embryonic stem cell manipulation. Earlier studies by other researchers had lead to the identification of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) often surprisingly matching the DNA sequence of bacterial phages. The CRISPR-Cas systems were found to provide bacteria and archaea with adaptive immunity against viruses and plasmids. Both Charpentier and Doudna had been working separately on CRISPR-associated proteins, examining how they interacted with the repetitive sequences in conferring bacterial immunity. In 2011, Charpentier identified tracrRNA as a critical component of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In a 2012 publication, which they co-authored, they demonstrated that the Cas9 enzyme from Streptococcus pyogenes (a relatively simple CRISPR system) could be targeted to perform a double strand cut at a specific DNA site and that precise targeting could be achieved using a single-guide RNA that combined the crRNA and tracrRNA (Jinek, et al, Science, 17 August 2012, p.816). As a result of their collaborative efforts, the CRISPR-Cas9 system is fast revolutionizing the transgenic technology field as researchers apply these methods to introduce subtle genome modifications at specifically targeted loci in a wide variety of cells and cell types. Certainly, their discoveries have led to what is known now as the “CRISPR-Craze” [Science 341:833-836(2013)] and will help research and the development of human therapeutics.
Dr. Jennifer Doudna was born in 1964 in Washington DC, USA. She received her PhD in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from Harvard Medical School, studying with Prof. Jack Szostak. She is currently a Howard Hughes Investigator at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Department of Chemistry, the Head of the Division of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology and holds the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair in Biomedical Sciences.
Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier was born in 1968 in Juvisy-sur-Orge in France. She received her PhD in Microbiology from the Pasteur Institute. She is currently a Guest Professor at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), a Nordic partnership with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). She has also been appointed Professor at the Hannover Medical School, and is Head of the Department “Regulation in Infection Biology” at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig (Germany). She holds an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship.
The contributions to science made by Drs. Charpentier and Doudna have been recognized by the fact that they have received numerous honors and awards, both individually and together. Notably, as collaborators, they received the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research in 2014, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2014.
We are delighted that both researchers have agreed to receive the ISTT Prize, thus joining the list of previously honored scientists (in descending chronological order): Janet Rossant (2014), Allan Bradley (2013), Ralph Brinster (2011), Francis Stewart (2010), Brigid Hogan (2008), Charles Babinet (2007), Andras Nagy (2005), Qi Zhou (2004), Kenneth McCreath (2002), Teruhiko Wakayama (2001). All ISTT Prize winners are given honorary ISTT membership and a unique silver sculpture representing a mouse blastocyst created by the Hungarian artist Béla Rozsnyay. Drs. Charpentier and Doudna will receive their prize at the next 13th Transgenic Technology Meeting (TT2016) that will be held in Prague (Czech Republic) on 20-23 March 2016.
Selected References from Drs. Charpentier and Doudna’s lifetime achievements:
1. Deltcheva E, Chylinski K, Sharma C, Gonzales K, Chao Y, Pirzada ZA, Eckert M, Vogel J and Charpentier E. 2011. CRISPR RNA maturation by trans-encoded small RNA and host factor RNAse III. Nature 471(7340):602-607.
2. Jinek M, Chylinski K, Fonfara I, Hauer M, Doudna JA and Charpentier E. 2012. A programmable dual-RNA guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity. Science 337(6096):816-821.
3. Fonfara I, Le Rhun A, Chylinski K, Makarova KS, Lécrivain AL, Bzdrenga J, Koonin EV and Charpentier E. 2014. Phylogeny of Cas9 determines functional exchangeability of dual-RNA and Cas9 among orthologous type II CRISPR-Cas systems. Nucleic Acids Res. 42(4):2577-2590.
1. Jinek M, East A, Cheng A, Lin S, Ma E and Doudna JA. 2013. RNA-programmed genome editing in human cells. eLIFE; 2:e00471. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.00471/
2. Sternberg SH, Redding S, Jinek M, Greene EC, Doudna JA. 2014. DNA interrogation by the CRISPR RNA-guided endonuclease Cas9. Nature 507:62-67.
3. Jinek M, Chylinski K, Fonfara I, Hauer M, Doudna JA and Charpentier E. 2012. A programmable dual-RNA guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity. Science 337(6096):816-821.
This 11th ISTT Prize press release can be downloaded from here.