UC Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna awarded Medal of Honor from American Cancer Society

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Campus molecular biology and biochemistry professor Jennifer Doudna was awarded the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor on Oct. 18 for her role in developing CRISPR-Cas9, a revolutionary gene-editing technology.

Doudna’s colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, also received a medal for developing CRISPR alongside Doudna. The technology may potentially be used to treat forms of cancer that are resistant to other methods of treatment.

“It’s truly an honor to celebrate these notable individuals for their dedication and lifetime achievements to significantly impact the fight against cancer,” said Gary Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, in a press release. “These individuals hold our highest admiration and respect for their contribution in leading the fight for a world without cancer.”

Other recipients of this year’s award include former vice president Joe Biden, as well as Dr. Charis Eng, the chair and founding director of the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Michael Thun, former vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.

In addition to her campus faculty position, Doudna directs the Innovative Genomics Institute, a UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco joint research center, and is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland. She also recently opened a new CRISPR lab at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.

This past summer, UC Berkeley offered a course that taught students how to use CRISPR. CRISPR operates by modifying genetic code in cells by replacing mutated, harmful genes with less harmful ones. Because the technology is so small, it can enter small cells and viruses to edit genes and address harmful diseases.

“This highly significant genome editing tool has been critical to cancer research and holds vast potential as a therapeutic tool to treat forms of cancer that have been resistant to treatment,” an American Cancer Society press release said.

Contact Alexa VanHooser at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dailycalexa.