Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier and colleague Jennifer Doudna are behind the CRISPR-Cas9 method, or the gene scissors as she herself calls this ground-breaking technology that had its breakthrough in 2012 in Umeå. Since then, interest in the potential of the scissors has increased rapidly the world over.
“Last year 3,300 articles were published, mainly about how the technology can be used and not so much about the research", said Emmanuelle at a full IVA seminar.
This revolutionary technology marks the start of a new era in molecular biology. It provides an effective and reliable way to make precise and targeted changes to genes in living cells.
“It’s a simple and precise tool that can speed up evolution.”
The gene scissors could, for example, lead to new therapies to cure genetic diseases, and in agriculture it offers entirely new plant breeding possibilities. But the European Court considers the technology genetic modification and has therefore banned it. That view is not shared by the Swedish Board of Agriculture and others.
In terms of being able to use the technology for research purposes, Emmanuelle Charpentier does not think the EU ruling will have any significant impact. It can be developed in other parts of the world where the rules are less strict.
“Among other things, I hope it will help us eradicate malaria,” says Emmanuelle.