Emmanuelle Charpentier is a researcher and professor of microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry. She has been a director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin since 2015. There, in 2018, she founded an independent research institute, the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens. Last year, along with Jennifer Doudna, Charpentier won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method of genome editing. It was the first time a science Nobel prize has been won by two women.
Charpentier moved from France to the United States in 1996 to work as a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University in New York, where she worked in a lab investigating how the pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae uses mobile genetic elements to alter its own genome. Charpentier went on to work as an assistant research scientist at New York University Medical Center. There she published a paper about how mice regulate hair growth. Then she took a position as a Research Associate at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine. After five years in New York Charpentier moved to Austria to become the lab head and a guest professor at the Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, University of Vienna.
Then from 2006 to 2009 Charpentier worked as lab head and Associate Professor at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories in Vienna. She then moved to Sweden to run a lab and take yet another position as an associate professor at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, at Umeå University. There she was a visiting professor until 2017. Though in 2013 she moved to Germany to become a department head and professor at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig and the Hannover Medical School. In 2014 she was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, a prize designed to attract foreign professors to Germany to conduct research. In 2015 Charpentier accepted an offer to become a scientific member and to direct the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.
Charpentier is known for her work on CRISPR/Cas9, deciphering the molecular mechanisms of bacterial immune systems. Charpentier discovered that a small RNA called tracrRNA is essential for the maturation of crRNA. Along with Jennifer Doudna, Charpentier demonstrated CRISPR could be used to make cuts in any desired DNA sequence. Since this discovery researchers around the world have used this method to edit the DNA sequences of plants, animals, and laboratory cell lines.