Emmanuel Charpentier, an internationally recognized expert in molecular infection biology, is one of the three joint recipients of the 2016 Tang Prize Laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science. In a field predominantly male, she has shown that an important sea change for equality in the sciences is beneficial for both the improvement of the sciences and society.
Charpentier has worked in nine different institutions in five countries, and each time she settled down in a new institution, she had to begin a lab from scratch, often with minimal funding. But each time, she has been able to piece together a functional research lab. In one such lab in Vienna in the early 21st century, Charpentier began looking at the curious case of CRISPR, a system native to bacteria that functioned as a recognition and retaliation system against viruses. She realized that the system could be “appropriated” for other purposes, such as targeting and editing genes with razor-sharp precision. The editing tool derived from her and other scientists’ work has led to today’s DNA editing revolution. In 2013, she founded CRISPR Therapeutics along with Rodger Novak and Shaun Foy, which has since attracted US$198 million in equity sales.
Women constitute roughly half of the world’s 7.2 billion people. Through listening to Charpentier’s story, along with countless others, it is hoped that more women around the world will be encouraged to break free of traditional expectations and become fully involved in the collective future of humanity.
Hear the stories of Charpentier and the other 2016 Tang Prize Laureates at Tang Prize Week. For information about Tang Prize Week, please visit http://www.tang-prize.org/week.php