Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, University of California at Berkeley
Biochemist Jennifer Doudna sprang to international renown in 2012 when she and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier proposed that CRISPR-Cas9 enzymes, a kind of bacterial immune system, were also a highly programmable tool for manipulating DNA. Cas9 has since become the most famous of the DNA-targeting CRISPRs, and its discovery has proven to be one of the most significant advancements in the history of the human understanding of biology. In the wake of this development, Cas9 has spawned the characterization of new CRISPRs — most notably Cas13, which operates on RNA like that of the novel coronavirus. This tech could help with rapid testing for the virus.
Doudna has also cofounded several companies, including Mammoth Biosciences, Caribou Biosciences and Editas Medicine. But it was her revolutionary contributions to CRISPR that, in early October, landed her one of the most coveted achievements of all: a Nobel Prize.