Rockefeller’s Marraffini Wins Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science; Prize Honors Outstanding Immigrant Scientists Whose Work Has Had Profound Impact on Biomedical Research, with Important Contributions to Medicine & Human Health

Luciano Marraffini, PhD

Luciano Marraffini, a pioneer in the study of CRISPR-Cas systems in bacteria and their potential for genome editing, has received the 2024 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science. Each year, this honor recognizes outstanding immigrant scientists whose work has had a profound impact on biomedical research, with important contributions to medicine and human health. Marraffini, who was born in Rosario, Argentina, and attended the University of Rosario, moved to the US to earn his PhD at the University of Chicago and conduct postdoctoral research at Northwestern University. In 2010, he was recruited to The Rockefeller University where he is currently the Kayden Family Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Bacteriology. For years, Marraffini has been uncovering the molecular mechanisms of CRISPR-Cas systems that help bacteria defend themselves against viral invaders. With Erik Sontheimer, Marraffini showed that CRISPR-CAS targets and destroys viral DNA, rather than RNA, as previously thought. Their groundbreaking paper in 2008 noted that, as a result, CRISPR could become a broader tool for genome editing. In collaboration with Feng Zhang’s lab at the Broad Institute, Marraffini conducted the original in vivo CRISPR-Cas genome-editing projects and showed its effectiveness across cell types.

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