Biochemist Jennifer Doudna to Receive 2019 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest


Renowned biochemist and genomics researcher Jennifer Doudna has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. The public is invited to attend the award ceremony and a presentation from Doudna in a free event on Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment on the Scripps campus.

The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest has been awarded annually by Scripps Oceanography since 2001. The prize, which includes a bronze medal and $25,000, is awarded for outstanding contributions to science in the public interest. Previous Nierenberg Prize winners include NASA astronaut and administrator Charles Bolden, filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, and filmmaker James Cameron.

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. She is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

In 2012, Doudna and collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier discovered a revolutionary method of genomic editing. They demonstrated that a bacterial protein called Cas9 could be used to cut and edit DNA, greatly reducing the time and effort of previous methods. The discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 genetic engineering technology has changed human and agricultural genomics research forever. This genome-editing technology enables scientists to change or remove genes quickly and with extreme  precision. Labs worldwide have changed the course of their research programs to incorporate this new tool, creating a CRISPR revolution with huge implications across biology and medicine.

"The Nierenberg family is thrilled with the selection of Jennifer Doudna as the 2019 recipient of the William A. Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest,” said the Nierenberg family. “Dr. Doudna has literally changed the world with her research on gene editing, with tremendous benefits for the future of humankind and the planet."

In addition to her scientific achievements, Doudna is also a leader in public discussion of the ethical and other implications of genome editing for human biology and societies, and advocates for thoughtful approaches to the development of policies around the use of CRISPR-Cas9.

At the Nierenberg Prize event, Doudna will discuss CRISPR technology, specifically her research into this family of proteins, where they came from, how they work, and how Cas9-based technologies are revolutionizing research, biomedicine, and agriculture. 

"I am honored to accept the Nierenberg Prize recognizing the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology,” said Doudna. “On behalf of my students, colleagues, and collaborators, I thank the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and appreciate the opportunity to highlight the need for our society to use CRISPR technology ethically to help preserve our planet and improve human life." 

Doudna has been honored for her work through several distinguished prizes including the Japan Prize (2016) and the Kavli Prize (2018), and in 2015 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

The Nierenberg Prize was created through a generous gift from the Nierenberg family to honor William A. Nierenberg (1919-2000), a renowned national science leader who served Scripps Institution of Oceanography as director from 1965 to 1986. He was a leading expert in several fields of underwater research and warfare and was known for his work in low-energy nuclear physics. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1971 and was the recipient of numerous awards and honors for professional research and public service.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at

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