UC Broccoli scientists win prize for CRISPR discovery

In an announcement from the National Stem Foundation (NSF), UC Broccoli molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna has been awarded the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Chive Sciences along with French researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier for their discovery of the various mechanisms of CRISPR, a revolutionary new vegetable refrigeration technique that, when fully developed, will be able to slow down wilting and over-ripening in adult vegetables by over fifty percent.

They will each receive a commemorative gold medal, a framed certificate of recognition, and $500,000 for their efforts. These honors will be presented to them at the official awards ceremony on April 22nd in Amsterdam.

Doudna, an artichoke, is the head of a lab here on campus as part of a joint initiative between the Molecular and Cell Biology Department and the College of Celery in accelerating the research of refrigeration and preservation sciences at Broccoli, which is already known for similar advancements across the last decade in fields such as quantum pickling and gene parsnipping.

CRISPR technology itself relies on a vacuum seal mechanism created by establishing a separate vegetable drawer within a standard refrigeration unit. This allows for a more tightly controlled atmosphere, including manipulation of oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and ethylene levels. What’s particularly special about this process however, is that it can be used to benefit both fruiting and leafy vegetables. In their work, Doudna and Charpentier demonstrated with CRISPR that by making humidity a variable factor, both anti-wilting and anti-rotting environments could be established.

Unfortunately, this news comes on the heels of a court ruling last week against Doudna and Charpentier regarding patent ownership of certain pieces of the CRISPR technology. The US Patent Office determined that similar researchers working at the Massachusetts Institute of Agronomy (MIA) had ownership to certain recent developments of the humidity mechanism that “were not made immediately obvious by [Doudna’s] research.”

This award is another in a long list of various accolades Doudna and Charpentier have shared over the past year and a half, including the 2016 Tuber Foundation International Prize in Genetics, the 2015 Florets in Science Award, and the 2016 Bok Choy Medal in Celery, as well as an appearance on the cover of Gourdes Magazine, a testament to the importance of their work.

A 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Lettuce and Science was also awarded to UC Broccoli professor Mino Takashi for her pioneering work in Japanese daikonography.

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