Campus molecular biology and biochemistry professor Jennifer Doudna was awarded the 2018 Kavli Prize in nanoscience for her role in discovering CRISPR, a revolutionary gene-editing technology, in a gala hosted by Norwegian King Harald V on Tuesday.
Doudna, Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, and Virginijus Šikšnys from the Vilnius University in Lithuania all received gold medals and shared a $1 million prize as part of the award.
According to David Drubin, co-chair of the campus department of molecular cell biology and one of Doudna’s colleagues, most scientific discoveries result in incremental advances, but the Kavli Prize in nanoscience recognizes scientists who push the field ahead and make a huge impact.
“They created a revolution that impacted biology, genetics, medicine and agriculture,” campus Dean of Biological Sciences Michael Botchan said.
The Kavli Prize is the most prestigious award for science in Norway, Botchan said. He added that Doudna and her colleagues are the first biologists to win the prize.
Botchan said he’s sure that Doudna was “excited and grateful for the peer recognition” after hearing that she won the award. He described the award ceremony as “wonderful” with the king of Norway and ambassadors from different nations attending with music and many events.
Doudna’s recognition for the prize is “well deserved,” said Mark Walters, interim director of research at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. He added that his research team and many others have greatly benefited from Doudna’s work and collaboration. Thanks to CRISPR, Walter’s team is making “rapid progress” in using genetic mutation to treat sickle cell anemia.
“We’re very proud of Jennifer,” Botchan said. “It adds to our outward face for people to know UC Berkeley is the kind of environment and university where discoveries made in our lab by our graduate students and faculty change the world.”