Forbes recognizes UC Berkeley community members’ contributions to health, science

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Selected from a pool of 10,000 nominees, Laura Stachel and Jennifer Doudna were featured in the 2021 Forbes 50 Over 50 List, which recognized women above the age of 50 who had achieved significant success and demonstrated a “pay-it-forward” mindset.

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The Forbes 50 Over 50 list featured two members of the UC Berkeley community to recognize the impact of their work.

Selected from a pool of 10,000 nominees, Laura Stachel, campus alumna and founder of the Berkeley-based nonprofit We Care Solar, and Jennifer Doudna, campus professor of biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology, were among the 50 women included on the list released June 2.

The criteria focused on women above the age of 50 who had achieved significant success and demonstrated a “pay-it-forward” mindset, according to Forbes spokesperson Christina Magrini in an email.

“Many of these women aren’t just working to advance their own careers; they’re using their platforms to make life better for future generations,” Magrini said in the email.

We Care Solar’s signature project, the Solar Suitcase, was inspired by Stachel’s trip to Nigeria in 2008, when she watched a woman suffer from pregnancy complications in a dark hospital, according to Stachel in an email.

According to Stachel, the system created by her and her husband Hal Aronson successfully reduced maternal mortality deaths by 70% in the first hospital that received the aid.

“I wondered why I was bearing witness to this and other tragic situations and thought maybe I could be a voice for women who were dying in silence,” Stachel said in the email.

Stachel and Aronson subsequently co-founded the nonprofit, which is dedicated to providing electricity via solar power to medical clinics in impoverished areas.

The organization has since provided more than 6,000 medical clinics globally with the Solar Suitcase, which can be used to sustain surgical lighting and medical devices.

“It’s amazing to be included in a list of such incredible women who, like me, have had an encore career,” Stachel said in the email. “I’m hoping that it reminds people that our lives can unfold in ways we might not predict when we are younger.”

We Care Solar has partnered with nongovernmental organizations, governments and the United Nations to locate medical facilities that would benefit from the Solar Suitcase, according to Kim Gordon, global programs manager at We Care Solar.

The nonprofit’s pilot programs are designed to help build solar installations and train health care workers on how to use the Solar Suitcase, Gordon added.

The Forbes list also recognized Doudna, who received a Nobel Prize for her contributions to CRISPR gene editing, which can treat diseases by modifying a living organism’s genome.

“I’m over the moon. I’m in shock,” Doudna previously told the Daily Cal about winning the Nobel Prize. “I couldn’t be happier to be representing UC Berkeley. It’s been an extraordinary time that I’ve had here.”

Forbes highlighted Doudna’s work in the five separate companies she has founded, where she applies CRISPR gene editing for various purposes.

Previously, Doudna was awarded the 2020 Wolf Prize in Medicine for “advancements for humanity.” The CRISPR-Cas9 technology that she created with a colleague allows target genes to be turned on or off, which was described as “medicine-revolutionizing” by Reut Inon Berman, CEO of the Wolf Foundation, in a previous Daily Cal article.

“Doudna is a leader in public discussion of the ethical implications of genome editing for human biology and societies, and advocates for thoughtful approaches to the development of policies around the safe use of CRISPR technology,” reads the Innovative Genomics Institute website.

As of press time, Doudna was not available for comment.

Contact Zachary Khouri at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @zachakhouri.