As patent attorneys and IP lawyers, we have a tendency to get bogged down in the legal intricacies and issues surrounding new inventions and technologies and sometimes fail to appreciate the elegance and power of the science behind them. Just as we are seeing a major scientific breakthrough with Pfizer/Biontech RNA vaccine, I was therefore delighted to read last month that Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for development of a method for genome editing”.
Amidst the ongoing battle over IP ownership, this award recognises their remarkable achievement in developing the CRISPR/Cas9 system for gene editing which offers huge potential in the life sciences, contributing to the development of cancer therapies and potentially heralding the end of inherited diseases.
Professors Charpentier and Doudna now join an elite group of female Nobel chemistry laureates, including Marie Curie, bringing the total to only seven women who have ever won the chemistry prize. This is also the first time an all female team has been chosen.
While the battle for ownership of the IP continues to rage between the University of California and the Broad Institute, it is refreshing to see that the Nobel Committee is in no doubt as to who first developed the science behind the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in recognising the significance of their achievement.
Who knows, Ozlem Tureci and her husband Ugur Sahin, the Biontech founders behind the COVID vaccine, may well be recognised in the future by the Nobel Committee for the part they played in controlling the pandemic.
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