To celebrate International Women’s Day, this blog post will be centered around the work of Dr. Jennifer Doudna, who discovered the molecular tool known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) in 2012. This specific form of genome editing technology uses the CRISPR-associated protein 9, and is a leading technology in genetics used today. It allows scientists to change the DNA, or the genetic makeup of an organism. The reason why this specific gene editing technology is looked at so highly is because it is cheaper, more accurate, faster, and more efficient than other existing methods. With this being said, let us look into the life of one of the greatest living scientist, Dr. Doudna.
Dr. Doudna is current a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Professor in Biomedicine & Health at the University of California Berkeley. Her and a team of other brilliant minds pioneered the development of CRISPR, one of the most important and promising scientific discoveries in history. Dr. Doudna started an incredible educational journey starting in the biochemistry track at Pomona College in California. She then moved to Harvard Medical School to obtain her PhD degree in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology.
Over the past decade, Dr. Doudna has been awarded honorary degrees from five universities, and more than 55 awards and distinctions, including the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, a research award worth USD 3 million. Dr. Doudna has been a major proponent of the CRISPR method of gene editing, but has equally shared the harms and potential ethical concerns related to its use. Her TED Talk in 2015 shares the major areas for improper and unethical usage of the technology, which, while it can help fight off genetic diseases (like cutting out HIV, and altering cancer cells) it opens the long and arduous path of “engineered humans”.
In the end, to give justice to the work of Dr. Doudna, and other extraordinary scientists, both male and female, let us take the time to appreciate their accomplishments before we consider their gender, race, background, sexuality, and any other factor. By doing this, we can truly celebrate the scientific advancements brought to the forefront of humanity by women, and all people for that matter. Let us also keep ourselves informed of the inequalities present throughout the world, and maintain this century-long celebration of women.