Nobel portraits, mind & hand

CRISPR inventors Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, portrayed by Herlinde Koelbl for the book Fascination of Science, which the photographer (famous for her work on Angela Merkel) dedicated to leading scientists. The photos, currently on display at the Koch Institute, capture “the connection between the personal & the pursuit of knowledge—between mind & hand—of pioneering scientists across the globe.”

Exa-cel, the first CRISPR therapy moves closer to market

Rodger Novak is the president of CRISPR Therapeutics, a company he co-founded with Emmanuelle Charpentier in 2013. Jennifer Doudna was invited to join but declined.

The road from clinical trials to regulatory green light now appears to be downhill for the treatment for sickle cell anemia developed by CRISPR Therapeutics, the company co-founded by Emmanuelle Charpentier. We knew it as CTX001 but it has changed its name to exa-cel (which stands for exagamglogene autotemcel). It was one of the first CRISPR-based gene therapies to enter clinical trials, in 2019. It changed the lives of Victoria Gray and dozens of sickle cell anemia and thalassemia patients enrolled in several countries. Now it also leads the way in the late stage of the regulatory process, both in Europe and the United States, and could come to market first, in 2023. For more information see the press-release by Vertex, that collaborates at exa-cel manufacturing, regulatory and commercialization.

CRISPR WOMEN – faces and feats


They may have lost the latest round in the patent dispute, but Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier will be forever celebrated as the inventors of CRISPR.
In “The Code Breaker” by Walter Isaacson, Doudna tells how a school’s guidance counselor tried to discourage her from studying chemistry at college: “Girls don’t do science.”
The Nobel prize came a few decades and many brilliant experiments later, it’s the first shared by two women. The institute founded by Doudna (IGI) is now launching an ad hoc incubator specifically to enhance gender equity in bio-entrepreneurship. Jennifer and Emmanuelle are unquestionably great role models for girls interested in science and started a wave of discoveries and inventions by female scientists.
In the slideshow below, you can meet some of the brightest women in CRISPR.

Inside the CRISPR saga

What’s unique about this book are the insights into the relationships between the main characters of the CRISPR saga. The loyal friendship linking Jennifer Doudna and George Church. The growing distrust between Doudna and Zhang. Doudna’s sorrow that she and Charpentier have drifted apart, personally as well as scientifically. The last point is indeed a melancholic note in the Nobel-ending tale. Why did their friendship fall apart?

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CRISPR walk-up music – the compilation

After reading about the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards in the book by Kevin Davies, I rushed online to listen to the walk-up music chosen by the CRISPR pioneers as they head to the stage to accept their award. Then I cut and pasted their songs and dance moves. So enjoy Jennifer Doudna dancing On the sunny side of the street, Rodolphe Barrangou pirouetting at the rhythm of Happy, Philippe Horvath going wild with Mission Impossible. And guess which is the song selected by Emmanuelle Charpentier? No spoiler, but the lyrics added at the end truly suits the CRISPR technological (r)evolution!

The Nobel Lectures and CRISPR Casɸ

Chemistry laureates Emmanuelle Chapentier and Jennifer Doudna showing their Nobel Prize medals Credit: Nobel Prize Outreach

Here you can watch le Nobel Lectures by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Emmanuelle is very focused and très, très chic, oui. Jennifer is generous with credits to colleagues and willing to represent the public conscience of genomic editing. The thing I liked most is the reference to CRISPR-Casɸ: a hypercompact genome editor found in huge phages. Probably it evolved to target the genes of competing phages inside bacterial hosts.

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It’s Nobel Week, let’s party

Traditionally the Nobel Laureates travel to Stockholm to receive their prizes. This year the prizes are coming to them. On 7 December, 19.00 CET, the diploma and medal will be presented to Emmanuelle Charpentier at the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence in Berlin. On 8 December, 16.00 PST, it’s Jennifer Doudna’s turn at the Residence of Barbro Osher, Honorary Consul General in San Francisco. Also on 8 December, 11-13 CET, we can watch online the Academy’s official Nobel Lectures 2020For the development of a method for genome editing, by Emmanuelle Charpentier, and The Chemistry of CRISPR: Editing the Code of Life, by Jennifer A. Doudna. Full programme here.