Gladstone investigator Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna, senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes and professor at UC Berkeley, was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her transformative co-discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology.


Gladstone Senior Investigator Jennifer Doudna, PhD, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her transformative discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, along with her long-time collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, PhD, the scientific and managing director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens, in Berlin, Germany.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a gene-editing tool that allows researchers to precisely cut DNA in order to remove, replace, or add genes to a sequence. While it’s only been 8 years since Doudna first published the discovery, scientists around the world have rapidly adopted this technology for a wide range of research purposes. Scientists are currently using CRISPR-Cas9 to create disease models in human cells, identify therapeutic targets, diagnose viral infection, and repair genetic mutations.

Doudna joined Gladstone Institutes as a senior investigator in 2018 to help point her technology to biomedical problems, while also continuing to study CRISPR mechanisms in her lab at UC Berkeley, where she has been a professor since 2002. 

At Gladstone, her lab is focused on using CRISPR technologies to study molecular mechanisms of disease. She is also working to establish ways to treat disease by cutting out or replacing harmful DNA in the body.

“Congratulations to Jennifer and her team on this momentous occasion,” says Gladstone President Deepak Srivastava, MD. “Her work has truly revolutionized biomedical research and I’m honored and excited that Gladstone is a part of her ongoing scientific discoveries.”

Doudna performed her graduate and postdoctoral work with two Nobel prize winners, Jack W. Szostak, PhD, and Thomas R. Cech, PhD. After her training, Jennifer started an independent lab studying RNA biology. During this time, she uncovered novel biochemical functions of RNAs and led the field in the discovery of RNA 3-dimensional structures.
Doudna made history in 2012, when she and Charpentier described for the first time the power of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system. Since this discovery, Doudna has stayed at the forefront of this field, developing CRISPR-based tools for biotech applications, and studying the function of other Cas proteins.

“This great honor recognizes the history of CRISPR and the collaborative story of harnessing it into a profoundly powerful engineering technology that gives new hope and possibility to our society,” says Doudna. “What started as a curiosity‐driven, fundamental discovery project has now become the breakthrough strategy used by countless researchers working to help improve the human condition. I encourage continued support of fundamental science as well as public discourse about the ethical uses and responsible regulation of CRISPR technology.”

Doudna has spearheaded the public debate around the ethical implications of using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human embryos, focusing on safety and need to proceed with great care.

Doudna is now the second Nobel Prize–winning investigator at Gladstone. She joins the company of Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2012 for his discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

In addition to her work at Gladstone, Doudna is the president of the Innovative Genomics Institute, a partnership between UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, that aims to apply genome engineering technology to improve human health. She is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

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