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Jennifer Doudna

Founder & Chair of the IGI Governance Board

Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair and a Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her groundbreaking development of CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome-engineering technology, with collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, earned the two the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and forever changed the course of human and agricultural genomics research.

This powerful technology enables scientists to change DNA — the code of life — with a precision only dreamed of just a few years ago. Labs worldwide have re-directed the course of their research programs to incorporate this new tool, creating a CRISPR revolution with huge implications across biology and medicine.

In addition to her scientific achievements, Doudna is a leader in public discussion of the ethical implications of genome editing for human biology and societies, and advocates for thoughtful approaches to the development of policies around the safe use of CRISPR technology.

Doudna is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, and the President of the Innovative Genomics Institute. She co-founded and serves on the advisory panel of several companies that use CRISPR technology in unique ways.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Doudna is also a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and has received numerous other honors including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2015), the Japan Prize (2016), Kavli Prize (2018), the LUI Che Woo Welfare Betterment Prize (2019), and the Wolf Prize in Medicine (2020). Doudna’s work led TIME to recognize her as one of the “100 Most Influential People” in 2015 and a runner-up for “Person of the Year” in 2016. She is the co-author of “A Crack in Creation,” a personal account of her research and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.

Biographic timeline

1964
Jennifer is born in Washington, D.C.
1971
Jennifer and family move to Hilo, Hawaii, where her father taught American Literature at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and her mother taught History at Hawaii Community College.
1981
Jennifer leaves Hawaii to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California, studying biochemistry.
1985
Jennifer attends Harvard Medical School, earning a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology in 1989, supervised by Jack Szostak.
1991
Jennifer spends three years at the University of Colorado Boulder as the Lucille P. Markey Postdoctoral Scholar in Biomedical Science, working with Thomas Cech.
1994
Jennifer accepts a position as an assistant professor at Yale University in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.
2002
Jennifer and husband Jamie Cate move to UC Berkeley; Jennifer takes on a joint professorship in Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry.
2006
UC Berkeley professor Jill Banfield introduces Jennifer to CRISPR systems in bacteria.
2008
First International CRISPR meeting is held in Berkeley, co-organized by the Banfield and Doudna labs with Mark Young at Montana State University.
2011
Jennifer meets Emmanuelle Charpentier at the annual American Society for Microbiology meeting in Puerto Rico, and they start a collaboration.
2012
"A programmable dual RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity" is published in Science, showing how the Cas9 system works in vitro and laying the groundwork for how it could be used for genome editing.
2014
Jennifer and Jonathan Weissman co-found the IGI (originally as the Innovative Genomics Initiative, becoming the Innovative Genomics Institute in 2017).
2019
First US patients are treated with CRISPR-based therapies in clinical trials.
2020
Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.

Research

The Doudna Lab pursues a mechanistic understanding of fundamental biological processes involving RNA molecules.

Recent work from Jennifer and her lab has focused on development of new tools for genome editing, cutting-edge research into delivery techniques for CRISPR-based therapies, next-generation CRISPR diagnostics, and continued investigations into the structure and mechanism of CRISPR-Cas systems.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Jennifer and members of the Doudna Lab to quickly establish a pop-up diagnostic testing lab at the IGI, and pivot to rapid research projects to help address the crisis.

Selected recent publications below. For a full list of Doudna Lab publications, click here.

Recent Publications

View all publications
Closeup of Jennifer Doudna displaying the Nobel Prize medal in its case

Nobel Prize

On October 7, 2020, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on developing CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome-editing tool. Learn more about the announcement, and the history of the research that led up to the prize:

Watch Jennifer's Nobel Prize lecture from December 8, 2020 on the history of her work on CRISPR-Cas9 and future directions for genome editing research.

Media

A Decade of CRISPR: How Genome Editing is Transforming Healthcare and Agriculture
TED: How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA
Conversations in Science with Dan Rather
Radiolab — Update: CRISPR
Bill Nye: Gene editing and the future of us

Book & Documentary

A Crack in Creation

A popular science book about her personal and professional experiences in CRISPR research from IGI founder Jennifer Doudna and her former graduate student, Sam Sternberg, A Crack in Creation offers a behind-the-scenes look at the development of CRISPR genome editing technology, its applications, and ethical implications.

Described as “required reading for every concerned citizen” by the New York Review of Books, A Crack in Creation (2017) takes the reader on a scientific journey, vividly exploring an unexpected discovery that has reshaped the future of humanity in just a short time.

The Code Breaker book cover

The Code Breaker

Walter Isaacson, the bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with The Code Breaker, an account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies. Plus, readers get an inside look at the rapid transformation inside the IGI as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Named a Best Book of 2021 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time, and The Washington Post, and a #1 New York Times Bestaeller, The Code Breaker is also available in a young readers edition

Film poster for Human Nature documentary

Human Nature

Human Nature, a feature from executive producer Dan Rather and director Adam Bolt, breaks down the science behind CRISPR and encourages viewers to think about the potential implications of this transformative innovation. Includes interviews with Jennifer Doudna, as well as IGI scientific directors Jill Banfield and Fyodor Urnov.

Human Nature is now streaming on Netflix, or visit the film's website for information on how to watch and for accompanying educational resources.

Contact & Media Resources