Since 1901, there have been only five women out of 183 Nobel Prizes winners in chemistry. 2020 is the first year that two women, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, receive this award.
Emmanuelle Charpentier was born in 1968 in Juvisy-sur-Orge, France. In 1991, she graduated from Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris after studying biochemistry, microbiology, and genetics. She then obtained her Ph.D. in microbiology at the Institut Pasteur, where she researched the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind antibiotic resistance.
During her studies, she focuses on new molecular and cellular technologies available. For example, Emmanuelle conducted a reflection of how bacterial pathogens infect and interact with their hosts and the environment. She studied molecular mechanisms during infection, to find new ways that could be exploited for the benefit of medicine.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Credit: © NATALI_MIS, ADOBE STOCK
Thus, in 2016, she discovered molecular scissors that «make it possible to do haute couture surgery of the gene». The ultimate goal of this revolutionary technique is to correct human genetic diseases.
The discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors won her the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
This discovery was tested in 2019 on an American woman who suffered from a genetic blood disease, sickle cell disease. For this experiment, stem cells from his bone marrow were removed, modified, and re-implanted. This experiment was also performed on a 19-year-old German woman treated for another blood disease, beta-thalassemia.
“This Nobel Prize shared by a female duo is a “very strong message” for young girls”: Emmanuelle Charpentier. It shows that girls have a place in science despite barriers. In particular, she mentions the obstacle of being a foreigner and not being part of the “family” in the various institutions for which she has worked. She encourages young girls to move toward scientific studies by showing proof of the possibility of obtaining a Nobel Prize.
Emmanuelle Charpentier is a remarkable woman who has risen up among a majority of male scientists by receiving other awards such as the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Louis-Jeantet Prize in Medicine, the Gruber Foundation International Genetics Prize, the Leibniz Prize, Germany’s most prestigious award, the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience, the BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Prize with Jennifer Doudna and Francisco Mojica.
Written by Océance G. and Ornella S.