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Nobel Prize In Chemistry Awarded To Two Women For The First Time

Nobel Prize Winners, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna | Image: Guardian UK

Scientists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method for genome editing.

This is the first time the Nobel Prize for chemistry has been awarded to two women in the same year in its 119-year history. This takes the number of women who have ever won the Nobel Prize in chemistry from five to seven.

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Both scientists will share the 10 million Swedish crown (£866,000) prize between them. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said:

“Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.”

Charpentier, who is French, and Doudna, an American, become the sixth and seventh women to win a Nobel for chemistry, joining the likes of Marie Curie, who won in 1911, and more recently, Frances Arnold, in 2018.

Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said:

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool, which affects us all. It has not only revolutionised basic science, but also resulted in innovative crops and will lead to ground-breaking new medical treatments.”

In keeping with tradition, chemistry is the third prize announced every year and follows those for medicine and physics earlier this week.

The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were created and funded in the will of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901, with the economics award a later addition.

However, the pandemic has redrawn the Nobels, with many of the traditional events, such as the grand banquet, cancelled or moved online even as research into the disease, above all the hunt for a vaccine, has dominated the scientific spotlight.

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