Press release

Nobel Prize for Humboldtian

The Nobel Prize in chemistry goes to Humboldtian Emmanuelle Charpentier.

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The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation congratulates Emmanuelle Charpentier upon winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry which she will receive together with Jennifer Doudna. The two researchers are being honoured for their development of the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, a method for genome editing. Counting Dr. Charpentier, 56 researchers from the worldwide network of individuals who have been sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation have now received a Nobel Prize.

Born in France in 1968, the genetic researcher and molecular biologist Emmanuelle Charpentier is director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin. She received an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in 2014 and has conducted research in Germany ever since then. She was a Humboldt Professor at the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH) and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig until 2015 when she switched to Berlin, initially as director of the Regulation in Infection Biology Department at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. She has headed the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens since 2018.

Together with Jennifer Doudna, Charpentier developed the CRISPR/Cas9 molecular scissors which can be used to cleave DNA strands and then insert new gene sequences at the cutting site.  Using this method, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its statement regarding the award. “This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true,” the Academy said.

“Our sincere congratulations to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. With the genetic scissors you have developed a ground-breaking technology that opens up entirely new avenues for expanding our fundamental understanding and for applications”, said the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Hans-Christian Pape. “We are of course particularly pleased that with Emmanuelle Charpentier a Humboldtian has been honoured. Only five women have previously received the Nobel Prize in chemistry.”

Video portrait of Emmanuelle Charpentier on the occasion of her receiving an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in 2014

(press release 19/2020, updated on 8 December 2020)


Jährlich ermöglicht die Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung über 2.000 Forscher*innen aus aller Welt einen wissenschaftlichen Aufenthalt in Deutschland. In weltweit über 140 Ländern pflegt die Stiftung ein fächerübergreifendes Netzwerk von mehr als 30.000 Humboldtianer*innen – unter ihnen 61 mit Nobelpreis.

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