Jennifer Doudna

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the 2016 Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics (a sum of USD 200,000) to Jennifer Doudna, Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of California in Berkeley (United States).

Pioneering research laying the foundations for revolutions in modern biochemistry 

Jennifer Doudna will receive the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics for her pioneering research into the structure and functioning of RNA molecules and RNA protein complexes.

From the beginning of her career, Jennifer Doudna knew that knowledge of the structure of RNA molecules was essential in order to understand their catalytic effect. She therefore started analysing crystal structures of RNA molecules right at the outset of her studies.

At first, these were relatively simple molecules. However, in the mid-1990s, she made a daring but successful attempt to crystallise and analyse a much larger RNA molecule: the Tetrahymena ribozyme P4-P6 domain. For the first time, researchers learnt how a long, complex RNA strand folds itself into functional bends so as to interact with surrounding molecules.

Doudna is still a leading researcher in the rapidly expanding research field dealing with the functioning of RNA molecules and RNA protein complexes. Her work created the foundations for exciting developments at the forefront of biochemistry: RNA interference and CRISPR, a bacterial system of defence against invading DNA that can now be used to edit the DNA code of living organisms with the greatest possible precision.

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