Japan Prize presented to CRISPR gene-editing inventors in Tokyo ceremony

This video, prepared by the Japan Prize Foundation, portrays the personal and professional stories behind the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.

In a formal ceremony in Tokyo today, the 2017 Japan Prize in the life sciences was presented to the two inventors of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool that is revolutionizing biological research and medical treatment.

With more than 1,000 people in attendance, including Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin received the award from leaders of the Japan Academy.

In a description of their research, the Japan Prize Foundation noted that “the CRISPR-Cas9 technology … enables us to edit the genome of all living things, and is on the verge of bringing about unprecedented technological innovation across various disciplines of the life sciences.”

The Japan Prize, which was announced on Feb. 2, honored “three individuals whose original and outstanding achievements in science and technology are serving to promote peace and prosperity for mankind,” according to the foundation.

Emperor with Doudna and Charpentier

Japanese Emperor Akihito at the April 19 awards dinner flanked by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Courtesy of Getty Images.

The third recipient was Adi Shamir, the Borman Professor of Computer Science at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and an internationally recognized cryptographer, who was recognized for his breakthrough research in the fields of cryptography and contributions to cybersecurity.

The laureates received a certificate of merit and a prize medal, along with a cash prize of 50 million yen (approximately $420,000 U.S.) in each prize field.

The ceremony was followed by a commemorative concert, where music requested by the laureates was performed by the Tokyo Geidai Symphony Orchestra.

This is “Japan Prize Week” across the nation, during which the laureates present commemorative lectures and attend academic discussion meetings. Additional activities include a meeting with the prime minister and a visit to the Japan Academy.

Doudna, a professor of chemistry and of molecular and cell biology, was accompanied by her husband, Jamie Doudna Cate.

Japan Prize announcement