The 2015 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine has been awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., (image) Head of the Department Regulation in Infection Biology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany and Guest Professor at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine, Umeå University, Sweden, and to Dr. Rudolf Zechner, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, Institute of Molecular Biosciences, University of Graz, Austria. The louis-Jeantet Foundation grants the sum of CHF 700,000 Swiss francs (CHF) for each of the two prizes, of which 625,000 CHF is for the continuation of the prize-winner's work and 75,000 CHF for their personal use. The prize-winners are conducting fundamental biological research that is expected to be of considerable significance for medicine. Dr. Charpentier of France is awarded the prize for her contribution in harnessing an ancient mechanism of bacterial immunity into a powerful technology for editing genomes. Bacterial pathogens also possess an immune system that defends them against predators, and particularly viruses. When studying this system, Dr. Charpentier’s team unraveled a unique mechanism – CRISPR-Cas9 – a pair of molecular scissors composed of a duplex of two RNAs linked to a protein. The system was harnessed into a new tool that makes genome editing within the cell almost like child’s play. It is a revolution for biology, and certainly also for medicine. (Editor’s Note: The abbreviation CHF is derived from the Latin name for the country of Switzerland: “Confoederatio Helvetica.") Dr. Charpentier will use the prize money to conduct further research on the mechanisms governing the pathogenicity of a streptococcus, namely Streptococcus pyogenes.
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