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Leaders in Innovation

2023 Inductee Emmanuelle Charpentier: Creating New Possibilities in Editing DNA

Since 1973, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® has proudly recognized groundbreaking and life-changing inventors. As we celebrate the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary, we are honored to welcome another extraordinary class of Inductees.

Among our 2023 class is microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, whose work with biochemist Jennifer Doudna has produced CRISPR-Cas9, a technology for editing DNA with unprecedented precision and efficiency, which opens up new, wide-ranging possibilities across medicine, biology and agriculture.

A Scientific Path

Charpentier was born in 1968 in Juvisy-sur-Orge, France. From a young age, she was interested not only in pure sciences and mathematics, but also in the human sciences such as psychology, sociology and philosophy.

She chose to study biochemistry, microbiology and genetics at the University Pierre and Marie Curie (now Sorbonne University) in Paris. In 1995, she earned a doctorate in microbiology for the research she performed at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Charpentier served as a research associate at New York University’s Langone Health, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; and NYU Medical Center.

Joining Umeå University in Sweden in 2009, she published her findings about an unusual RNA called tracrRNA, and how its work with the Cas (CRISPR-associated) 9 protein contributed to the identification and elimination of invading viruses.


A CRISPR Revolution

In 2011, Charpentier met her fellow National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee Doudna at a scientific conference. Doudna also had been researching different aspects of CRISPR and was focused on RNA, a partner to DNA in carrying genetic information. As the pair began to collaborate, their research brought about meaningful innovation.

In 2012, Charpentier and Doudna discovered that Cas (CRISPR-associated) 9, a gene-cutting protein used by bacteria to kill viruses, can be re-engineered as a programmable gene editing tool. They described how an RNA molecule guides the CRISPR-Cas9 system, binding it to a specific region in the DNA, and they showed how the Cas9 protein then cuts the DNA, allowing it to be edited in a precise manner.

A CRISPR revolution has begun as laboratories across the world have incorporated CRISPR-Cas9 into their research programs. This system is not only faster, but it’s more accurate and more efficient than previous genome editing methods.

With the potential to be transformative in medicine, CRISPR is being tested for the treatment of genetic diseases, including sickle cell disease and other disorders that are caused by a mutation in a single gene. The technology also is being explored to create more resilient crops that can resist disease and withstand a changing climate. The field of CRISPR-Cas9 continues to develop at dazzling speed, with exciting new developments emerging almost weekly.

Charpentier, who holds more than 50 U.S. patents, joined the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin in 2015, and she continues to serve as director of the Unit for the Science of Pathogens. She is also the co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics and ERS Genomics, as well as a fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research Academy.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Charpentier and Doudna in 2020.


Meet More Inspiring 2023 Inductees

To learn more about the visionary inventors who make up our latest class of Inductees, we invite you to visit our website.

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