Health: The 2020 Nobel Prizes, Medicine and Chemistry

The Story:

The Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2020 went to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of the Hepetitus C virus. Important as that is, the Nobel in Chemistry also acknowledged a remarkable contribution in to health and medicine: Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna received it for the development of a method for genome editing known as CRISPR.


CRISPR has revolutionized all the life sciences, from plant breeding to genetic therapy.

Charpentier is a French microbiologist, and Doudna is an American biochemist affiliated with UC Berkeley. In 2012, they were studying the immune system of a Strettococcus bacterium. They discovered that they could use “genetic scissors” already present in the metabolism of the bacterium so that they could make precise cuts in the DNA sequences.

in Pill Form:

Just as one illustration of the ramifications, consider that early this year researchers tested a cancer treatment in which the body’s immune cells are CRISPR-edited to get them to hunt down and attack the body’s cancer cells. The results were not such as to declare a breakthrough cure, but they have encouraged continued work along those lines.

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