In 2012, Dr Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues described a simple way of editing the DNA of any organism using an RNA-guided protein found in bacteria. This technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, is transforming biology, having opened avenues for countless possibilities for human and non-human applications of gene editing, including helping researchers to tackle HIV, sickle cell disease and muscular dystrophy.
On Tuesday 25 June 2019, the Department hosted Dr Doudna to give a public understanding of science lecture in honour of our former Waynflete Professor of Physiology and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Sir Charles Sherrington. In a talk entitled CRISPR Biology and Biotechnology: The Future of Genome Editing, Dr Doudna discussed research into the innovating family of proteins behind the technology: where they came from, how they work and how Cas9-based technologies are revolutionising the fields of genetics, molecular biology, medicine and agriculture.
The audience comprised of researchers and students from across the Department and wider University of Oxford, alongside members of the public and Biology students from several local sixth form colleges. Cheney School's Head of Biology Lizzie Seller commented: "The students enjoyed it so much, they were buzzing afterwards! It was so interesting for them and we really appreciated how inclusive you were of the school groups present. It was a fantastic and inspiring experience." Frances White, Head of Biology who brought students from Magdalen College School, remarked: "It was a very interesting lecture because it encompassed the biology, the research process, and the ethics involved."
After the lecture, Dr Doudna met several members of the audience, including a sixth form group from John Mason School. A Year 12 Biologist from the school commented: "We all found her an inspiring lady with a broad range of interesting, mind-boggling knowledge. We also admire that she is a female figurehead in science, breaking stereotypes and being an overall pioneer for the CRISPR revolution, as well as taking a stand on moral and ethical aspects of its use." Several departmental students and postdoctoral researchers were also able to secure some time with Dr Doudna to discuss her work.
Dr Doudna pictured with DPAG's Dr Anna Veprik, Nelisa Tebeka, Ross Campbell and Stewart Humble
UC Berkley Distinguished Professor Jennifer Doudna is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. She has received many honours including the prestigious Kavli Prize, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Heineken Prize, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award and the Japan Prize. She is the co-author with Sam Sternberg of “A Crack in Creation”, a personal account of her research and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.
Head of Department Professor David Paterson with Dr Jennifer Doudna FRS
To view more pictures of the event, click here.
On Wednesday 26 June 2019 Dr Doudna received an honorary degree from the University of Oxford at the annual Encaenia event. Read more here.