#WiSW11: JENNIFER ANNE DOUDNA

JENNIFER ANNE DOUDNA

Jennifer Anne Doudna is an American biochemist known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene editing. Doudna entered Pomona College in Claremont, California to study biochemistry.

Doudna has been a leading figure in what is referred to as the “CRISPR revolution” for her fundamental work and leadership in developing CRISPR-mediated genome editing.

Doudna has made fundamental contributions in biochemistry and genetics and received many prestigious awards and fellowships including the 2000 Alan T. Waterman Award for her research on the structure as determined by X-ray crystallography of a ribozyme, and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology.

She has been a co-recipient of the Gruber Prize in Genetics, the Canada Gairdner International Award, and the Japan Prize.

Early in her scientific career, Doudna worked to uncover the structure and biological function of RNA enzymes or ribozymes.

While in the Szostak lab, Doudna re-engineered the self-splicing Tetrahymena Group I catalytic intron into a true catalytic ribozyme that copied RNA templates.

At Yale, Doudna’s group was able to crystallize and solve the three-dimensional structure of the catalytic core of the Tetrahymena Group I ribozyme.

In 2012, Doudna and her colleagues made a discovery that reduces the time and work needed to edit genomic DNA. Their discovery relies on a protein named Cas9 found in the Streptococcus bacterial “CRISPR” immune system that cooperates with guide RNA and works like scissors.

Zhang at the Broad Institute had shown that CRISPR-Cas9 could edit genes in cultured human cells a few months after Doudna and Charpentier published their method. Doudna also co-founded Caribou, a company to commercialize CRISPR technology.

As executive director of the Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley, Jennifer Doudna is leading a COVID-19 testing center.

In 2017, Doudna was awarded the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.

In 2018, Doudna was awarded the NAS Award in Chemical Sciences, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize from the Rockefeller University, and a Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society.

In 2019, Doudna was a recipient of the LUI Che Woo Prize in the category of Welfare Betterment.

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