Sciences et Avenir – 885 Research: a vintage Nobel

Excellence is also experiencing particularly remarkable peaks, and the 2020 Nobel Prizes are proof of this. Reason why Science and the Future-Research decided this month to devote their cover and first pages to them. In majesty, the Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier, biologist, whose work led to the invention of one of the most influential tools in genetics today: “Everything has changed with CRISPR”, writes journalist Hervé Ratel in the article detailing what should be called a revolution in biology laboratories (pp. 8-11).

“Rewrite the code of life”

Nothing less than a method for “rewrite the code of life”, according to Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. But sticking to the only cocorico would be unwelcome, in front of two other highlights. A first, first: it is two women who obtained this Nobel Prize in chemistry – in addition to Emmanuelle Charpentier, who works in Berlin, at the Max-Planck Institute for the Biology of Infections, the American Jennifer Doudna, of the University of Berkeley (California). Great progress for women scientists, only 7 – including Marie Curie – out of 186 laureates since 1901.

“Sorcerer’s apprentice”

Second notable point: the importance of ethics. Difficult questions arise in fact from the possibility of rapid action on the genome of living beings, including that of humans. The best and the worst in the test tube. “To provide new therapeutic approaches to serious human diseases”, this is what Emmanuelle Charpentier told us to hope from the CRISPR-Cas9 tool in 2016 (p. 13). However, we know that a “sorcerer’s apprentice” such as He Jiankui (University of Shenzhen, China) used such an approach in 2018 to modify the genetic heritage of unborn children. And this, outside of all ethical rules. Hence the current wish of the scientific community: to have a code of good conduct. You have to control the tool, however excellent and vintage it may be.

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