2016 Canada Gairdner International Awards Recipients
The Canada Gairdner Awards are Canada’s most prestigious medical award. They recognize and celebrate the research of the world’s best and brightest biomedical researchers.
The 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards edition rewards five research workers, among which three of them are French or have studied in France: Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou and Dr. Philippe Horvath.
• The work of Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou and Dr. Philippe Horvath is recognzed by the Canada Gairdner International Awards. These two researchers are being awarded “for establishing and characterizing CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune defense system”
Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou is an Associate Professor at Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences; and a Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research North Carolina State University, USA. He studied at Paris V Descartes, and had his Master Degree from the University of Technology of Compiegne.
Dr. Philippe Horvath is a Senior Scientist at the DuPont firm in France. He graduated from Université Louis-Pasteur, Strasbourg in 1996 and obtained his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2000.
The work: Dr. Barrangou and Dr. Horvath’s research focused on understanding the genetic basis for health-promoting and technological properties of beneficial bacteria used in food fermentations. Along with colleagues, they established that CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity against viruses in bacteria where it recognizes foreign DNA and uses a special molecular scalpel to target and destroy it. They also showed that CRISPR arrays capture viral DNA for natural vaccination against bacteriophages; and demonstrated that cas genes are implicated in sequence-specific targeting and cleavage of DNA.
The impact: Their discovery established CRISPR-Cas as the adaptive immune system of bacteria and has made dramatic impact on the science community, setting the stage for a new research area. This inspired others to investigate CRISPR further. The key advantages of CRISPR over other gene-editing systems are its ability to be quick, precise, efficient and relatively inexpensive. And, as the scientific community has shown over the past few years it is transferable to many types of living organisms. The list of possible applications includes: genome editing, antibacterial and antimicrobial production, food safety, food production and plant breeding.
• Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier is among the three Canada Gairdner International Awards who are being awarded “for development of CRISPR-CAS as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells.”
Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier is a Scientific member of the Max Planck Society, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany; and Professor at the Umeå University in Sweden. She studied biochemistry and microbiology at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France, then did her PhD in microbiology at the prestigious Institut Pasteur in 1995.
The work: In 2012 Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna published the description of a revolutionary new genome editing technology that uses an engineered single-guide RNA together with the DNA-cleaving enzyme Cas9 to readily manipulate the genomic DNA of individual cells. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology has given biologists the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or altering genes with high efficiency and precision. Their collective work has led to the breakthrough discovery of DNA cleavage by Cas9, a dual RNA-guided enzyme whose ability to cut double-stranded DNA can be programmed by changing the guide RNA sequence. Recognizing that such an activity could be employed as a molecular tool for precision genome engineering in various kinds of cells, their teams redesigned the natural dual-RNA guide as a single-guide RNA (sgRNA), creating an easy-to-use two component system.
The impact: This technology is transforming the fields of molecular genetics, genomics, agriculture and environmental biology. RNA-guided Cas9 complexes are effective genome engineering agents in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology is being used in thousands of laboratories around the world to advance biological research by engineering cells and organisms in precise ways.
For more information about the laureates and/or the Gairdner Awards, please visit their website.