Breakthrough Prize for Emmanuelle Charpentier


Congratulations to former MFPL Group Leader Emmanuelle Charpentier to the 2015 Breakthrough Prize. The twelve prizes, each endowed with 3 million US dollars, were awarded on 9th November in Silicon Valley.

Among the winners in the Life Sciences category with Emmanuelle was her colleague Jennifer Doudna from the University of California Berkeley. Together their teams had discovered the CRISPR-Cas9 system, revolutionizing DNA editing. Parts of the breakthrough were actually made in Vienna, where Emmanuelle’s PhD student Krzysztof Chylinski worked to understand the ancient mechanism of bacterial immunity that is the basis of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology. The work of both teams was published in 2012 in Science and led to a patent application on Cas9-mediated DNA engineering, partially owned by the University of Vienna. Since then, the technique has developed into a powerful and general technology for editing genomes with wide-ranging implications across biology and medicine.

The Breakthrough Prize was initiated by Google founder Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, among others. The prize is awarded for the third time and was created to honor great scientists and their ground-breaking discoveries. Besides Life Sciences, it is also bestowed in Physics and Mathematics.

Emmanuelle now works at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Braunschweig and also leads a research group at Umea University in Sweden. For her work on the CRISPR-Cas9 technology she has also received the Göran Gustaffson Award of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in March this year, and the Dr Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research in September, as well as being elected as an EMBO member in May.

For more information about the prize and the other awardees visit